The pistachio is a member of the cashew family, and is native to the deserts of Asia Minor and West India. According to the folklore of the Middle East, young lovers who meet under pistachio trees and hear the nuts crack open on a full moon night will eventually marry. Queen Sheba liked pistachios so much she decreed that the yearly crop in her kingdom would belong solely to the royal palace. In the 20th Century, hate and turmoil in the Middle East helped boost pistachio production in California.
Pistachio is the fruit of Pistacchio vera tree. It is a yellow-green coloured nut found inside a hard, naturally beiged colored shell. The shells of some pistachios are colored red (with vegetable dye), while others have been blanched until white.
Pistachios aren’t actually nuts. Pistachio ‘nuts’ are actually seeds of red or yellow plum-like fruits whose flesh is removed during processing. However, everyone calls them a nut because they look like ‘nuts’ and belong to the cashew family. Other things in the cashew family include sumac, mangos, and poison ivy.
Pistachio nuts have a delicate, subtle flavor that is wonderful either for eating out of hand or for flavoring both sweet and savory dishes.
How are Pistachios Available in the Market?
Pistachios are readily obtainable all through the year. Pistachios are available shelled or unshelled, either raw or roasted and salted or not. When buying unshelled pistachios one must make sure that the shells are partially open-not only because it’s a great help in getting the nutmeat out, but because closed shells mean the nutmeat is immature.
Pistachio may be roasted and salted or used as flavoring for ice cream and (Indian) hot, sweet, milk beverage.
Global Production of Pistachios
According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the top five pistachio producers are Iran, followed by the United States, Syria, Turkey and China. Iran is the world’s largest producer and exporter in pistachio industry and Iranian pistachio is considered the best in the world in terms of its taste and flavor.
Iran is the world’s largest producer and exporter in pistachio industry and Iranian pistachio is considered the best in the world in terms of its taste and flavor. The major markets for pistachio consist of Europe, East Asia, Central Asia and the Persian Gulf Countries.
Nutritional Aspect of Pistachio
A hundred gm of raw pistachios provides a whopping 557 calories. Nearly two-third of the calories is from fat, a fifth is from carbohydrate and just over a tenth is from protein. Nearly 90 per cent of the fat content is monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat that, in small amounts, is good for the heart and blood vessels. Overall, the pistachio is low in sodium and cholesterol. The protein is rich in many essential amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own and must obtain in the diet.
The nut is a great source of, thiamine, Vitamin B6, Vitamin A, folate, calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, selenium, magnesium and copper. In fact, pistachios contain more magnesium and copper than potatoes, milk, or bread. Pistachios are rich in phytosterols that lower blood cholesterol levels and also have the potential to prevent cancer. They are also rich in dietary fibre: in fact, an ounce of nuts contains more fibre than half a cup of spinach.
The tree gum is used to make blood-clotting agents and also to treat periodontal diseases. In folk medicine, the pistachio is a cure for liver and other abdominal complaints, chronic cough, abscesses, sores and vascular insufficiencies. Pistachio leaves are a fertility drug in the folk medicine of Lebanon, and, in much of Arabia, the nuts are thought to have aphrodisiacal properties.
Some Interesting Facts About Pistachios
Pistachios are biblical. They are mentioned in the Old Testament in Genesis 43:11, and are one of only two nuts mentioned in Scripture. The other nut mentioned is the almond.
According to Moslem legend, the pistachio nut was one of the foods brought to Earth by Adam.
Pistachios are royalty. As the legend goes, the Queen of Sheba made an official declaration that pistachios were an exclusively royal food. In fact, she even went so far as to forbid commoners from growing the nut for their own consumption.
Nebuchadnezzar, the ancient king of Babylon, also had a passion for pistachios. It is said that he had pistachio trees planted in his hanging gardens.
And the Mogul Emperor, Akbar the Great, hosted lavish banquets befitting his royal status. He often served chicken at these banquets, and ordered all the chickens to be fed pistachio nuts for 6 to 8 weeks in advance to give the chickens a more delicious flavor.
Pistachios are called “the smiling nut” in Iran and “the happy nut” in China. People in the Middle East sometimes refer to the pistachio as the “smiling pistachio.” In those same countries, if you are sitting under a Pistachio tree and you hear the shells snapping open, it is a sign of good luck.