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 their geographical distribution as well as from the nuts. The nuts are smaller in size, bearing feature 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 then it turned into 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 backyard tree. The credit for this work belongs to David Fairchild of Department of United States of Agriculture from China to California.
It grows well in a properly irrigated soil with approximately 3,000-4,000 ppm salts. They can survive nicely when temperature is -10°C in winter up to 40°C in the summers. They need sunny days with well drained soil. They find difficulty to survive when planted in areas with high humidity and during winters when the soil contains too much water with poor drainage conditions. 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 surrounding a seed which is edible. Seed is a culinary nut but not a true nut from the botanical sense. 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 process is called as dehiscence. Each tree bears about 50 kg seeds.
The trees are often planted in the orchards and attain maturity at the age of 7-10 years so as 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 prone to fungal diseases like the shoot blight. The kernels are consumed as whole either fresh or salted and can also be 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 and even marshmallows. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in July 2003 approved that these nuts are effective against the heart ailments. A research carried out at the Pennsylvania State University indicated they decrease the levels 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 customers in the world taking about 80,000 tonnes annually followed by Americans which consume 45,000 tonnes annually. Russians and Indians are next.