All About the Pistachio
Scientific name: Pistacia vera
Classification: Tree Nut
Also known as: Pistache
The pistachio nut is a native of the Middle Eastern countries Iran, Syria and Greece, and has been cultivated for over 10,000 years. It is considered by some to be one of the oldest edible nuts on earth and is referred to in the Old Testament—Genesis 43:11—along with almonds. The pistachio belongs to the same family as the cashew. The fruit of the pistachio differs from all other nuts because of its green color and the semi-opening of the shell. In Iran, it is called the "smiling pistachio," and in China it is called the "Happy Nut." Because of this physical characteristic, it is the only nut that does not need to be shelled for roasting and salting. It used to be common to dye pistachios red to cover any blemishes on the shell but most consumers now prefer the natural color.
It was not until the 1930s, when vending machines became popular, that pistachio nuts imported from Italy became a popular snack food in the United States. After WW II, the evergreen trees that bear pistachios were imported to California. The name pistachio is the Italian version of the Persian word, pistah, meaning nut.