Did you know that there are different kinds of pistachio trees? Just one of them, however, gives off the seeds that we like so much. That is why this tree of the genus wig tree family is called the ‘real pistachio’.
The pistachio is a member of the cashew family. The tree produces seeds that are widely consumed as food. The pistachio as we know it comes from a tree so small it can be mistaken for a shrub. It is native to Asia and the Middle East and got its name from Persia where the tree and the fruit were called ‘pista’. The origin seems to be Syria, but pistachios are also found spontaneously in Palestine, the coast of Asia Minor and the Middle East, as well as in Western India and Russian Central Asia. However, the tree is grown in Europe, the U.S. and parts of Iran for the consumption of the pistachio nut.
Top producers and exporters are Iran, the US and China. Like all other nuts and kernels, the pistachio nut is actually a seed. The fruits of the pistachio tree are oval, about 2.5 centimeters long and have a hard skin. It contains the seeds, also called nuts. Each fruit has a nut, which is surrounded by a thin but very hard shell. This shell opens by itself.
In September, the fruits of the tree are harvested and the nuts are collected. When the nut has had time to grow and ripen, the shell opens automatically. Many people think that the roasting process opens the shells, but this is not the case. A nut with an opened shell is called a ‘split’. In every harvest you inevitably come across ‘non-splits’ as well: these nuts have not matured long enough.
Because a closed pistachio nut is almost impossible to open, they are separated from the split. It would be an immense task to do this all by hand, that’s why an American manufacturer invented a handy method. He dropped the nuts on a steel cube and listened to the sound. A closed nut makes a completely different sound than an open one. This process is nowadays fully automated. Occasionally a closed nut can end up in a bag.
The nuts used to be harvested by hitting the tree with a stick and then catching the nuts in a blanket. Nowadays, the trees are shaken mechanically in order to remove the precious nuts from the branches. After harvesting, the nuts are dried and then sulphurized. Then they can be processed for consumption. For example, they are roasted (with or without shell), salted or peeled. Usually the peeled variety can be found in nut mixes.
The pistachio nut seems to be back in popular demand, and thanks to new insights and research, it appears that this greenish nut is very good for your health. They are less fat than peanuts, but contain a lot of nutrients. Delicious with drinks, as a garnish for ice cream and salads, but also mixed with chocolate, incorporated in your rice or in oven dishes.
The pistachio nut is very versatile, refined in tasted and easy to combine with other foods. That makes it a good substitute for meat in soups, sauces and dishes. Because of its typical taste, it is also good to combine with fruit and sweet desserts. The pistachio nut is also a good alternative for vegetarians, because it contains a lot of B vitamins. The pistachio nut is a tasty variation on dishes with cashew nuts or almonds.
Factors influencing the price of pistachios include GDP, weather conditions, exchange rates, food safety shocks and the prices of substitutes, such as almonds, walnuts, and pecans.