Pistachios were introduced in a widespread manner to the U.S. in the 1880's. Today, 98 percent of the world supply of pistachios is consumed in the United States.
The pistachio is the seed fruit of Pistacia vera
, originating in Persia. The English name pistachio
is derived from pisteh
, its Persian name. Also known as the green almond
, the pistachio is related to the cashew
The 20-foot tall trees thrive in stony, poor soil under high heat and with little or no rainfall, but cannot tolerate humidity or excessive moisture conditions. These trees live for centuries with no care necessary. In fact, Iran boasts of a 700-year-old tree still living.
Pistachios were brought to the United States on a wide-scale basis in the 1880's by a former Syrian immigrant who was a nut salesman.
Pistachios are currently cultivated as a commercial crop in California, Italy, Turkey, and Iran, with the U.S. being the second largest producer in the world.
One of the most popular uses of pistachios is pistachio ice cream
, a creation credited to James W. Parkinson of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania around 1840. (His pistachios were most likely imported.) However, you will see from the recipe collection
that the pistachio is tasty in savory dishes as well as sweets.
The Pistachio Harvest
Commercial harvesters have machines to shake the fruit down over tarps. The pistachio is a drupe
, which means it has an outer fleshy covering over the hard-shelled nut, like the nutmeg
. The fruit is gathered and then soaked to remove the outer soft red or yellow covering before the hard shells containing the nut are dried in the sun.