The pistachio is a small shrub native to Syria, Pakistan, Greece, Afghanistan, Turkey and Iran which produces an economically important culinary nut. It’s a member of the genus Pistacia. The various species can be isolated from each other on the basis of the geographic distribution as well as from the nuts. The nuts are smaller in size, bearing characteristic strong flavor of turpentine and a soft shell. The name pistachio comes from a Persian word. The contemporary pistachio nut Pistacia vera was cultivated for the first time in Western Asia and it become inhabitant of the cooler parts of Iran. Presently it’s cultivated for commercial purposes in Australia, New Mexico and California in which it was introduced in 1854 as a garden tree. The charge for this work goes to David Fairchild of Department of United States of Agriculture from China to California. Walter T. Swingle’s introduced these trees from Syria to Niles in 1917.
It’s characteristically a desert plant capable of tolerating high salinity. It grows well in a properly irrigated soil with about 3,000-4,000 ppm salts. They could survive well when temperature is -10°C in winter up to 40°C in the summers. They want sunny days with well drained soil. Long hot summers are vital for fruit ripening. The plants are dioecious with different male and female plants. The blossoms are apetalous, unisexual and are borne in panicles. The fruit is a drupe enclosing a seed that’s edible. Seed is a culinary nut although not a true nut from the botanical sense. The shell of the seed is white and hard. The seed has a mauvish skin and light green flesh with a distinctive flavor. The shell colour changes from green to red or yellow after ripening. This approach is called as dehiscence.
The trees are usually planted in the orchards and attain maturity at the age of 7-10 years in order to be used for commercial production. Peak production is achieved at age 20 years. Plants are pruned regularly so as to carry out harvesting in an easier way. One male generates enough pollen for 8-10 nut bearing females. The trees are delicate and are susceptible to fungal diseases like the shoot blight. The kernels are consumed as complete either fresh or salted and are also utilized in making ice creams. Americans prepare pistachio salad where they prepare pistachio pudding then add fresh cream and canned fruits and sometimes cottage cheese as well as marshmallows. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in July 2003 declared that these nuts are effective against the heart ailments. A research carried out at the Pennsylvania State University indicated they decrease the amount of low density lipoproteins and increase the level of antioxidants in serum. Like the members of Anacardiaceae they also contain urushiol which can cause allergic reactions. Chinese are top pistachio consumers in the world taking about 80,000 tonnes annually followed by Americans which consume 45,000 tonnes annually. Russians and Indians are next.