Pistachio Nuts

What are Pistachios

Pistachios are one of the most popular nuts, and they are one of the oldest cultivated. Pistachios are the seed of a small fruit or drupe, which grows in bunches. Unlike other drupes such as cherries and plums the fleshy fruit is discarded for the seed, (I like to add that in Iran we use the flesh to make jam).

The seed grows inside a shell protected by leathery fruit. The harvesting happens when the seed burst through the shell. when the shell splits it makes a loud crack and it is believed to be a good omen if you are sitting under a tree and hear a seed crack.

Health Benefits of pistachio nuts

Pistachios are full of fibre minerals and unsaturated fat. The high levels of potassium and unsaturated fatty acids contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory traits.

A healthy ingredient that can be found in pistachios is an amino acid called L-arginine. This amino acid can help the lining of your arteries become flexible and decrease the chance to develop blood clots.

Other health benefits of pistachio nuts are:-

  • It can keep blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol in check.
  •  Fibre and protein will make you feel fuller for longer, and the fibre will aid good bacteria in your guts.


History of pistachio

Pistachios originated from the region where Iran, Turkey, Syria, Israel and Afghanistan are located. The best map that shows where pistachios come from is the Persian Empire map from 500 BC.

The oldest evidence of pistachios was an archaeological dig in northern Iraq which dated to 6700 BC. Around 700BC the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were said to have pistachio trees, and in the Old Testament pistachios are one of the two nuts mentioned.

“Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be, then do this: Put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man as a gift, a little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds.” Genesis 43:11


where do pistachios come from

The origin of pistachio’s introduction to the west might not be clear but we know with the Arab expansion along with Crusades in the middle ages, the Levant trade was widespread. One major trade rout at the time was the sea rout to Venetian Republic. They had a great trade relation with Syrians who were one of the main pistachio producers.

Pistachio was very slow to make it north of the Alps. While in Italy it was used widely but in the rest of Europe it was a luxury addition in baking. Only after WW2 pistachios became a popular and affordable snack.

Today things are different. We have new players is pistachio cultivation and none more successful than United States of America. And the development of pistachios in America is an interesting one.

During the 1800s pistachios were imported from Middle East. In 1929 William E Whitehouse, a respected botanist agreed that Californian central Valley was a suitable place to cultivate pistachios. So his journey began by trying to discover the best pistachio. This lead him to Persia (modern day Iran) where he found his perfect varieties in province of Kerman specifically Rafsanjan, a county north of Kerman where is well known for its pistachios. There he met the Agah family, who were prominent pistachio farmers. Whitehouse separated 10kg of individually selected nuts to take back with him. 

In 1930 when his journey came to an end Whitehouse began working on his first plot. Pistachio trees take 10 years to mature. Out of all the seeds Whitehouse brought from orchard of Agah family in Rafsanjan only one matured into a useful tree and he called it Kerman, after the city where the famous Persian carpets are made.

After years of hard work and experiment America was ready to begin cultivating pistachios. First was California and soon after Arizona and New Mexico followed.