The pistachio is a small tree native to Syria, Pakistan, Greece, Afghanistan, Turkey and Iran which produces an economically significant culinary nut. It’s a member of the genus Pistacia. The different species could 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 modern pistachio nut Pistacia vera was cultivated for the first time in Western Asia and it turned into inhabitant of the cooler parts of Iran. Presently it is cultivated for commercial purposes in Australia, New Mexico and California where it was introduced in 1854 as a backyard 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.
It grows well in a properly irrigated soil with about 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 want 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 essential 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 although not a true nut from the botanical sense. The seed has a mauvish skin and light green flesh with a distinctive 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 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 reached at the age of 20 years. Plants are pruned regularly so as to carry out harvesting in an easier way. One male produces enough pollen for 8-10 nut bearing females. The trees are delicate and therefore are prone to fungal diseases like the shoot blight. The kernels are consumed as complete either fresh or salted and are also utilized in making ice creams. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in July 2003 approved that these nuts are effective against the heart diseases. A research carried out in the Pennsylvania State University suggested they decrease the levels of low density lipoproteins and raise 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.