Salty, nutty, crunchy, crisp: ah! the plentiful pleasures of pistachio. Toss it into pilaf. Sprinkle it on ice-cream. Scatter it on couscous. Or simply munch a handful of it on a chilly winter afternoon.
Whichever way you eat pistachio, this green beauty will pleasure your palate and make you thank nature for its rich bounty.
The Pistachio In a Nutshell
It’s native to western Asia and Asia Minor, from Syria to the Caucasus and Afghanistan.
Archaeological evidence in Turkey indicates that nuts were being used for food as early as 7,000 B.C.
The pistachio was introduced to Italy from Syria early in the first century A.D. Subsequently its cultivation spread to other Mediterranean countries.
The tree was first introduced into the United States in 1854 by Charles Mason. Today, the US is the world’s second-largest producer of pistachios.
Source: California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc.
The Pistachio Tree
– Loves cool winters and hot, long summers, full sunshine. Hates high humidity.
– Grows to a height of 25 to 30 feet, with one or many trunks and attractive foliage. Lustrous green leaves turn a brilliant orange-crimson in fall.
– Comes to full fruition after 15 years. Its reddish, wrinkled fruit hangs in heavy clusters, somewhat like grapes.
– Lives on for centuries if cared for well.
– Yields nuts rich in oil, with an average content of about 55 percent.
REMEMBER: the deeper the shade of green, the more delicious the pistachio nut.
Next: Health Benefits and Cooking Tips
– Pistachio nuts are harvested when the husk covering the shell becomes fairly loose.
– A single shaking brings down most of the matured nuts, which can be caught on a tarp or canvas.
– A fully mature tree may produce as much as 50 pounds of dry, hulled nuts. The hulls should be removed soon after to prevent staining of the shells.
– The hulled nuts are dipped into water to moisten the shell and spread out in the sun to dry.
– The split nuts are boiled in a salt solution, then redried and stored.
– Stored in plastic bags, pistachios will last for at least 4 to 6 weeks in the refrigerator. Frozen, they will last for months.
Almonds are awesome and walnuts are wonderful, but pistachio has the edge because it is the only nut that can be roasted and salted without removing the shell! This also makes it very easy to package.
Shelled pistachios are a hot favourite in confectionery, ice cream, candies, sausages, bakery goods and as flavoring for puddings. They can also be added to dressings, casseroles and other dishes.
Pistachio nuts are considered one of the prime edible nuts, along with almonds, walnuts and cashews.
– Love pistachios? Be happy, because it’s ‘heart smart.’ Recent studies show that the nut lowers blood cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease. More good news: Pistachios are low in saturated fat and are cholesterol-free.
– Forget potatoes, ditch whole wheat bread: Pistachios are richer in fiber than both!
– Need protein? Pop pistachios. Combined with other protein-rich grains, fruits and vegetables, they can complete your quota for the day.
– Pistachio nuts are also a rich source of antioxidant vitamins A and E. They are packed with potassium, which helps in regulating the body’s fluid balance.
– Get your lutein, which is also found in dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, from pistachios. Your yes will sparkle.
1 cup thick, homemade yogurt
4 to 5 pods of shelled pistachio, chopped into flakes
sugar to your taste
a few drops of rose essence
Whisk the yogurt and the sugar briskly together.
Add the rose essence and give another quick whisk.
Sprinkle the pistachio flakes on the yogurt, and enjoy a light, creamy, good-for-you dessert.
To this basic recipe, you can add wheat germ, honey and/or fruit juice. Enjoy!
Remove pistachios from the shell, and let the kernels soak for at least an hour in cold water spiked with lemon juice. In this way, the tender pistachios will reveal their truest flavour. Now mix them with hot rice, and enjoy the crunchy taste.
Pretty Up With Pistachios
Mix a few crushed pista nuts with a little milk, and gently apply under the eyes. Wash off after half an hour. Apply regularly to get rid of dark circles.
DID YOU KNOW
The English word pistachio comes to us from the Old Italian pistaccio (“pistacchio” in modern Italian), from the Greek pistakion, which in turn derives from an Old Persian word.
Experts say it is best to eat unsalted pistachios as salt can raise blood pressure.