Pistachios nuts

12 Interesting Facts About Pistachio Nut

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What is a Pistachio Nut?

Pistachios are the edible seeds from the fruit of the pistachio tree (Pistacia vera L.). Botanically, pistachios are not true nuts but rather the seeds of a drupe fruit. The pistachio fruit has a hard cream-colored shell encasing the pistachio seed, which has a mauve-colored skin and a green kernel.

Pistachios are cultivated in warm, dry regions around the world, originally coming from Central Asia and the Middle East. They have been eaten since ancient times, with evidence of pistachio consumption dating back over 9,000 years. Today, Iran and the United States are the top producers of pistachios globally

Pistachio nuts with shell
Pistachio nuts with shell

1. Pistachios are one of the oldest nuts around

Archaeologists have found evidence that pistachios were a popular snack as early as 7,000 BC. They originated in the deserts of Central Asia and were first cultivated in the Middle East. Ancient Persians called them the “smiling nut” and introduced them to the Mediterranean region around 700 BC.

2. They take a while to produce

It can take up to 10 years for a pistachio tree to mature enough to produce nuts. The trees also have alternate bearing cycles, meaning they produce heavy crops only every two years. So you have to be patient to grow these nuts!

3. Pistachios open when they are ready to eat

When pistachios are ripe and ready for picking, their shells will naturally split open. This allows harvesters to easily collect the nuts without having to pry open any shells. The nuts “smile” at you when they’re perfect for roasting and salting!

4. They are cholesterol and sodium free

Pistachios contain no cholesterol or sodium, making them a heart-healthy snack. A serving of around 47 nuts contains only 160 calories too. Their beneficial fats may help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.

5. There’s a red variety too

The most common type is the green nut we all know. But there are also red pistachio varieties**,** originally from Iran. Red pistachios are harder to find and even more visually striking with vivid crimson shells and seeds.

6. They are an excellent source of antioxidants

Pistachios contain more antioxidants gram-for-gram than most other nuts and seeds. The antioxidants lutein, beta-carotene, and vitamin E may help protect against cell damage and disease.

7. They contain as much potassium as a banana

An ounce of pistachios provides as much potassium as half a large banana, making them an especially good source. Potassium helps regulate nerves and muscles. Pistachios are one of the best nuts for getting this essential mineral.

8. Iran produces most of the world’s pistachios

Iran accounts for around 60% of global pistachio production, with over 200,000 hectares dedicated to the crop. The USA comes in second, producing around 20% of the world’s pistachios in California.

9. They are an environmentally friendly crop

Pistachio trees need little water and thrive in hot, dry climates unsuitable for other crops. Established pistachio orchards also absorb carbon dioxide and provide habitat for wildlife with minimal environmental impact.

10. September is National Pistachio Day in the USA

Every year on September 13, pistachio lovers celebrate this nutritious, tasty nut. The day falls during the early pistachio harvest season in the USA. It’s the perfect time to enjoy some fresh pistachios!

11. Pistachios must be handled just right

After pistachios are harvested, they must be dried and roasted properly to bring out their best flavor. Then they are salted and packaged with care to avoid contamination. Handling is key to creating the pistachios we know and love.

12. China is eating more and more pistachios

In the last couple of decades, pistachio consumption in China has rapidly grown. The nuts are becoming more popular as Chinese consumers learn about their health benefits and great taste.

Pile nut of Pistachio or Pistacia vera
Pile nut of Pistachio or Pistacia vera

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you eat pistachios?

There are many great ways to eat pistachios! The most popular method is to roast them with salt for snacking. You can also add them to dishes like salads, pasta, granola, trail mixes, ice cream, and even baked goods.

What does a pistachio taste like?

Pistachios have a distinct rich, sweet yet slightly earthy taste. Their flavor is stronger than many other nuts and pairs well with both sweet and savory foods. When roasted, they take on even more intense, nutty notes.

Are pistachios healthy?

Yes! Pistachios are very nutritious, being high in protein, fiber, antioxidants, and healthy fats like oleic acid. They may help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Just stick to reasonable portion sizes, as they’re fairly high in calories.

Why are some pistachio shells partly open?

Pistachio shells will naturally split open when the nuts are mature and ready for harvesting. The partial split makes them easier for pickers to open fully once collected but doesn’t allow the nut to fall out prematurely. It’s a neat botanical adaptation!

How do pistachios grow?

Pistachio trees are dioecious, meaning individual trees are either male or female. The small flowers on female trees must be pollinated by male flowers to produce nuts. It takes around 10 years for trees to start bearing nuts, which grow in clusters like grapes.

Are pistachios expensive?

Pistachios tend to cost more than most other nuts since they are time-consuming to grow and process. Mass production is also limited by the alternate bearing cycles of the trees. But many pistachio lovers think their unique taste, health benefits, and fun factor make them worth the price!

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