Everything about Pistachios
It’s time to get cracking! The pistachio harvest in Iran (The best producer of these delicious nuts) runs August and September and is just starting. Not only are pistachio nuts delicious and fun to eat, they are also very healthy.
These nuts are edible seeds of the “Pistacia vera” tree containing healthy fats and are an excellent source of fiber, protein and antioxidants. They also carry many crucial nutrients and are suitable for weight loss and fitness as well as abdomen and heart health. People have been consuming pistachio since 7,000 BC. Nowadays, they’re prevalent in many recipes such as ice cream and desserts.
Pistachio is from late Middle English “pistace”, from Old French, superseded in 16th century by forms from Italian “pistaccio”, via Latin from Greek “pistakion”, from old Persian “pesteh.”
The pistachio has a long and fascinating history. They are one of the oldest flowering nut trees which have been described as being native to Iran, Central and Western Asia. Recent archeological proof in Turkey implies that people were enjoying them as early as 7,000 B.C. Growing in hot environments, pistachios expanded from the Middle East to the Mediterranean, quickly becoming a treasured food between royalty, tourists and common folk alike.
Myth has it that the Queen of Sheba declared pistachios as an exclusively royal food, going so far as to forbid peasants from producing the nut for their personal use. Nebuchadnezzar, the ancient ruler of Babylon, had pistachio trees planted in his famous hanging gardens. Also, in the first century A.D., Emperor Vitellius debuted this expensive nut in Rome. According to Muslim myth, the pistachio nut was one of the fruits which were brought to Earth by Adam.
The pistachio’s high nutritional value and long storage life also made it an indispensable travel item among early explorers and traders. Along with almonds, pistachios were frequently carried by travelers across the ancient Silk Road that connected China with the West.
The pistachio of commerce is the only dietary species between the 11 species in the genus Pistacia; all are defined by their capacity to exude mastic or turpentine. Many of them are called pistachios, but this name is usually used for the edible nut of commerce. The original name of these nuts is Pistacia vera. A member of the family Anacardiaceae; it is related to the mango, cashew, oak, poison ivy, pepper tree and sumac.
Pistachio is one of the desert plants which are incredibly tolerant of saline soil. It has been described to grow strong when irrigated with water having 3,000–4,000 ppm of water-soluble salts. Pistachio trees are relatively stable in the right circumstances and can withstand temperatures varying between −10 °C (14 °F) in winter and 48 °C (118 °F) in summer. They require well-drained soil and a sunny spot. Pistachio trees can’t grow in conditions of high humidity and are susceptible to root rot in winter if they receive too much water and the soil is not adequately free-draining. Long, hot summers are suitable for proper ripening of the fruit.
The tree grows up to 10 meters tall. It has deciduous pinnate leaves 10 to 20 centimeters long. They’re dioecious, with separate male and female trees. The flowers are unisexual and apetalous borne in panicles. The seed has a mauve-colored peel and bright green flesh, with a unique flavor. When the fruit ripens, the shell changes from green to an autumnal red/orange and slowly breaks partly open.
The pistachio trees have widespread root systems enabling them to dig the soil more deeply. Therefore, pistachios are designed to survive prolonged periods of desiccation. That’s why they need well-drained soils. In such grounds, the tree can endure nearly high levels of irrigation water or salinity in soil or irrigation water.
Morphology and Maturation
Each pistachio nut ripens in fruit packs of various nuts, similar to grapes. Botanically, they’re drupes, the same division as peaches, almonds, cherries, apricots and plums. All drupes include three parts; an exocarp, a fleshy mesocarp which is called hull and a shell that contains a seed. The difference between fruits and nuts is in the edible serving. In almonds and pistachios, the seed is absorbed, instead of the mesocarp as in fruits.
The trees are dormant from December within February and start to bloom with the weather getting warmer in late March. The male fertilizes the female through the April winds, and mid-May entirely develops the shell of the nut. Before June ends, the seed inside the shell has started its accelerated development, and by the first of August, the seed would fill the shell. When the nuts are splitting at the seams, they are ready to be harvested the opening week of September.
Ripening of the seed is indicated by the loosening and division of the peel from the shell followed by splitting of the shell inside the slackened skin. In fact, not all nuts broke open while ripening. This depends on the cultivar, weather circumstances, and irrigation plan.
All varieties include a genetic characteristic that causes shell splitting before hull detachment. This causes the splitting of the raw shell which provides access for Aspergillus Flavus spores to the kernel. If you don’t harvest these nuts quickly, they may produce an excellent tool for the growth of Aspergillus and the production of aflatoxin, which is a subsidiary metabolite in the growth of the fungus. The percentage of early splits produced by the tree.
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