Also known as ‘pistachio nut’
Pistachio is the the edible pale green seed of the Asian tree, (Pistacia vera). It belongs the mango family (Anacardiaceae) together with cashew nuts, sumac, Poison Ivy and Peruvian Pepper Tree.
The tree is native to South West Asia. Wild Pistachio trees are common in the middle East, Central Asia, Pakistan, and India.
Pistachio nut is cultivated commercially for its edible seed, enclosed in a hard whitish shell, which splits open at the tip when ripe.
The top producer of pistachio is Iran. Other major producers are USA, Syria, Turkey, China, Greece and Afghanistan. (Fruitcrops.com)
Pistachios have a distinctive and widely appreciated flavour.
The Pistachio Fruit
Pistachio fruits grow in clusters similar to grapes. The ovoid fruit is botanically known as a drupe and contains a pale green elongated seed enclosed in a cream coloured shell. The seed is the edible nut. It has a mauve skin (seed coat).
The fruit is initially light green, but turns reddish yellow as it matures and becomes rosy when fully ripe.
The hull (wall) of the pistachio fruit is called the epicarp. It is about 2mm thick (1/16 inch) and adheres tightly to the hard inner shell until the nut is ripe. When ripe, the epicarp (hull) separates from the hard inner shell and can be easily peeled off from the shell.
Harvesting Ripe Pistachio Fruits
When ripe, pistachios easily fall off the tree when the branch is shaken. A mechanical shaker is used to shake pistachios off the tree and they are collected in a net. The harvested fruit must be hulled and dried within 24 hours to avoid shell staining and aflatoxin contamination.
The hulls (epicarp) are removed by abrasive action in large potato peelers. They nuts are washed in clean cold water, soaked overnight in a saturated brine solution and then dried in 3-4 days. They are re-salted and dry roasted and are ready for sale.
Most of the pistachios are marketed un-shelled and the rest are shelled and sold fresh or processed into candies, baked goods or ice cream.
The Pistachio Nut
Good pistachio nut shells split open at the tip, naturally. The ones that fail to split open are either discarded or are removed and cracked mechanically.
How to Store Pistachio
Pistachios can be stored at a temperature of 68ºF (20ºC) without significant deterioration for as long as one year. Store in a cool dry cupboard or refrigerator.
Nutritional Value of Pistachio
Pistachio nut contain about 45% unsaturated fat, 21% protein and 31% carbohydrate. They are rich in fats.
Nutrition Per 28.35g (1 oz.) or 49 Roasted and Salted Pistachio kernals:
- Calories: 170 Calories ( calories from Fat 110)
- Fat: 13 g (Saturated Fat 1.5 g Polyunsaturated Fat 4 g Monosaturated Fat 7g)
- Carbohydrate 9 g (Fiber 3 g, Sugar 2 g)
- Protein 6g
- Cholesterol: 0mg
- Potassium 300 mg
Culinary Use of Pistachio
Pistachios are mostly sold raw or salted in their shells.
They are used as a snack, dessert nuts, used in ice-cream, baked goods, salads, confectionary.
The Pistachio Tree
Deciduous tree 10m high. Leaves pinnate with 3-7 ovate leaflets. Male and female flowers are on different trees. There is one male tree for every 15 female trees in an orchard.
Want to Read More About Pistachio?