The Pistachio a member of the cashew family, is a small tree originating from Central Asia and the Middle East. Pistachio seeds were a common food as early as 6750 BC and was one of the trees unique to Syria.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were said to have contained Pistachio trees during the reign of King Merodach-Baladan about 700 BC. More recently, the Pistachio has been cultivated commercially in many parts of the English-speaking world.
The Pistachio is a desert plant and is highly tolerant of saline soil. They need a sunny position and well-drained soil. Pistachio trees do poorly in conditions of high humidity and are susceptible to root rot in winter if they get too much water and the soil is not sufficiently free-draining. Long, hot summers are required for proper ripening of the fruit. The bush can grow up to 10mtr (33ft) tall. The Pistachio fruit is a drupe, containing an elongated seed, which is the edible portion. The seed, commonly thought of as a nut, is a culinary nut, not a botanical nut. The fruit has a hard exterior shell. The seed has a mauvish skin and light green flesh, with a distinctive flavour. When the fruit ripens, the shell changes from green to an autumnal yellow/red and abruptly splits part way open.
Pistachio trees take 7-10 years to reach significant production which is heavier in alternate years. Harvesting is often accomplished using equipment to shake the drupes off the tree. After hulling and drying, Pistachios are sorted according to open-mouth and closed-mouth shells. Sun-drying has been found to be the best method of drying, then they are roasted or processed by special machines to produce pistachio kernels.
Pistachio trees are vulnerable to numerous diseases, including an infection by the fungus Botryosphaeria, which causes the death of the flowers and young shoots and can damage entire Pistachio orchards.
Pistachio nuts have long been cherished as the symbol of wellness and robust health. The kernels are enriched with many health-benefiting nutrients. They offer good sources of protein, fats and minerals and are a rich source of many antioxidant phytochemical substances such as carotenes and vitamin-E. These compounds may help remove toxic free-radicals from the human body, helping to protect it from diseases, cancers and infections. The nuts are packed with many important B-complex groups of vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6 and various minerals.
Pistachio Oil is one of the healthiest cooking oils. It has a pleasant nutty aroma and possesses excellent emollient properties. It helps keep skin well protected from dryness and besides been used in the kitchen, it is a ‘carrier or base oil’ in traditional medicines in massage therapy, aromatherapy, in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries.