Pistachio: Enchanting and Mouth Watering Nut
The pistachio is a small tree native to Syria, Pakistan, Greece, Afghanistan, Turkey and Iran which produces an economically important culinary nut. It is a member of the genus Pistacia . The different species can be isolated from each other on the basis of their geographical distribution as well as by the nuts. The nuts are smaller in size, bearing characteristic strong flavor of turpentine and a soft shell. The name pistachio comes from a Persian word. The modern pistachio nut Pistacia vera was cultivated for the first time in Western Asia and then it became inhabitant of the cooler parts of Iran. Currently it is cultivable for commercial purposes in Australia, New Mexico and California where it was introduced in 1854 as a garden tree. The credit for this work goes to David Fairchild of Department of United States of Agriculture from China to California. Walter T. Swingle's introduced these trees from Syria to Niles in 1917.
Pistachio attains a length of 10 meters and is deciduous with pinnate leaves measuring 10-20 centimeters in length. It is characteristically a plant plant capable of tolerating high salinity. It grows well in a properly irrigated soil with about 3,000-4,000 ppm salts. They can survive well 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 planed in areas with high humidity and during winters when the soil contains too much water with poor drainage conditions. Long hot summers are essential for fruit ripening. The plants are dioecious with separate male and female plants. The flowers are apetalous, unisexual and are borne in panicles. The fruit is a drupe enclosing a seed which is edible. Seed is a culinary nut but not a true nut from the botanical sense. The shell of the seed is white and hard. The seed has a mauvish skin and light green flesh with a distinct flavor. The shell color 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 usually planted in the orchards and attain maturity at the age of 7-10 years in order to be used for commercial production. Peak production is achieved at the age of 20 years. Plants are pruned regularly in order to carry out harvesting in an easier way. One male produces enough pollen for 8-10 nut bearing females. The trees are delicate and are susceptible to fungal diseases like the shoot blight. The kernels are consumed as whole either fresh or salted and are also used 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 diseases. A research carried out at the Pennsylvania State University indicated that 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 consumers in the world taking about 80,000 tonnes annually followed by Americans which consume 45,000 tonnes annually. Russians and Indians are next.