Pistachio (Pistacia vera – L.) is a fruit tree species belonging to the family of Anacardiaceae and Pistacia and originating in Central Asia.
From a systematic point of view, the pistachio belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, the Kingdom Plantae, the Magnoliophyta Division, the Magnoliopsida Class, the Sapindales Order, the Anacardiaceae Family, and then the Pistachio Genus and the P. Pure Species.
The generic term is the common Latin name of Pistachio (Pistacia vera L.) derived from the corresponding Greek term ‘pistáke’ or ‘pistákia’, which would seem of Persian origin (pistáh meaning rich in flour). The specific name refers to the geographical distribution of the plant in the Atlas region in North Africa. According to others (but without foundation), the etymology of the name “pistachio” should in fact have nothing to do with Greek, Latin or Aramaic roots, but recall the sudden snap that emits fruit when it opens its valve to maturity. Instead, the name “fastuca”, with which the Sicilians designate this Anacardiacea, would revert to the Arabic language.
Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Pistachio (Pistacia vera L.) originates from a large area of Asia Minor, Syria and Turkestan, although it is currently widely cultivated in Mediterranean countries.
Although originally from Central Asia came early on the shores of the eastern Mediterranean. The pistachio was practically unknown to the Romans, and was brought to the West by the Arabs. This plant has been cultivated in several parts but above all in Turkey, Iran and subarid regions of the United States, pistachio, in spite of its rusticity, is still not easy to cultivate.
Pistachio is a leafy and leafy plant, can reach a height of about 12 meters, but generally stops at 5-6 m. the pistachio is very long and reaches up to an age of 300 years but has a very slow growth.
The fruit is a drupa with a thin and hard oval endocarp containing the seed, commonly called “pistachio” which has a green color under a purple peel.
The pistachio has unisex flowers and it is a goddess, so there are plants with only male flowers and plants with only female flowers (which produce fruits). The flowers are petals and picked on tops. A male tree (also called “scornabecco” or “frastucazzu”) can produce enough pollen to fertilize up to 10 female plants.
The flowering of this plant occurs in April and the harvest of fruits takes place in September-October. The wood is hard and dense and has a yellowish color.
Cultivated in different parts of the world, including Turkey, Iran and subarid regions of the United States, pistachio, as mentioned, is still not easy to cultivate: besides being godson (which is already a complication: male individuals are to be made grow even if they do not bear fruit), the pistachio tends to alternate vintage “charge” with “download” vintages; in the latter, the plant is to be treated, however, because it can give the best in the following season. For this reason one of the most important Italian niche products, Bronte pistachio, cultivated on the western slopes of Etna, is so expensive. But you can also imagine what kind of trepidation you expect in those countries to harvest, which happens not every year, but every two years. In recent years, the production of pistachios, for centuries also present in the area of the Agrigento, has seen the growth of rational and irrigation systems that have far exceeded the length of the Bronte pistachios. Even from the point of view of quality, these pistachios have nothing to envy to those on the slopes of Etna.
Pistachio fries in a two-year cycle, which, together with climatic variations, causes, as it is said, large variations in yields and prices. In fact, the plant produces fruit every year, but is highly dependent on production alternation, so there are years of charge and years of discharge (commonly known as the amount of production). There are many other fruit plants that with this feature and try to limit it by trimming the fruits in the year of charge for a more or less similar production over the years. In the pistachio, however, they are completely removed, canceling production in the discharge years to increase it during the years of charging, hence there is cultivation with a biennial cycle. With good cultivation, fertilization, pruning and irrigation techniques, this alternation can be diminished.
The most famous pistachios at the Italian level (but also globally) are the Bronte and Adrano pistachios on the slopes of Etna, protected by the PDO brand “Pistacchio Verde di Bronte”. The other area with interesting growth of this cultivation is that of the province of Agrigento. Italy has gone from 2,400 tonnes in 2005 to 2,850 tonnes in 2012, becoming the seventh producer in the world. Internationally important cultivation areas are located in the Middle East (mainly Iran, but also Turkey and Syria, although the latter has fallen sharply), California and, in recent years, also in China. In Greece, where production is declining but around 10,000 tonnes, a pistachio is cultivated from almost white shell, with red-green nucleus and with the opening of the shell similar to the “Kerman” variety, the most widely used variety in California. Most of the production in Greece comes from the Almyros region.
The most common variety in Italy is the White (commonly called Napoletana or Nostrale, the seed is green and represents the precious commercial factor). Other varieties are Cappuccia, Cerasola, Insolia, Silvana, Femminella. Recently introduced on the Italian market are the Kern, Red Aleppo and Larnaca cultivars.
Once harvested, the pistachio must be dried and then remove the moss covering the woody shell and finally dry it to allow for long-term storage and sale.
Pistachios, when grown under conditions that expose the plant to great stress, may suffer from contamination with the Aspergillus flavus mold, which produces the aflatoxin tasteless flavor in the fruit. Like all nuts, pistachio presence in foods should be labeled by law, so as to prevent the possible release of a food allergy.
Uses and Traditions –
The presence of pistachios in archaeological excavations provides proof that it has long been associated with human activities and its cultivation is probably started near the areas where the plant grew spontaneously. Pistachio Remnants dating back to the 6th millennium BC were found in Afghanistan and southeastern Iran. This factor places it as a native of the Middle East, where it was cultivated already in prehistoric times, particularly in Persia. As reported in his famous Dipnosofisti, Naucrati University, Greek writer and sophist in the 2nd century, in the Roman Empire, several Greek and Hellenistic authors speak of the pistachio, placing it cultivated in Syria, Persia and India and calling it bistachion or pistachio o pistakion. Therefore, the dissent is the thesis, especially advocated for recent ideological reasons, according to which “pistachio” comes from Arab (fustuaq).
The cultivation was widespread in the ancient Persian Empire and from here it gradually extended westward. Considered a precious fruit, in Assyria, in the tenth century BC, Saba’s Queen limited and monopolized cultivation for its exclusive use. Pistachios are also mentioned in the Bible (Genesis 43:11) as a precious gift delivered by the sons of Jacob, from Canaan to Egypt.
In ancient Greece they were also used as an energy source; some amphora found in 2004 in the Greek island of Chios have detected the presence of Pistacia vera and Pistacia lentiscus DNA, suggesting that the fruits were marketed in this area around the 4th century BC.
In addition to food use, pistachios were used both by Assyrians and by the Greeks as a medicine, as an antidote against poisonous bites and as a powerful aphrodisiac. Even Avicenna, considered the greatest median and scientist in the Islamic Middle East, in his book The Canon of Medicine, describes them as useful for liver disease and as an aphrodisiac. In the Middle Ages, the Arabic physician Averroe describes the oil extracted from pistachios as “… a balanced care, thanks to its complex nature strengthens the stomach and liver. In general, it is one of the drugs considered of great utility. ” This same conviction was subsequently shared by other doctors of the Middle Ages.
In the book “Natural History”, Pliny writes that pistachios were introduced into Italy by Syria from the Roman consul in the province during the end of Emperor Tiberius’s reign. From Italy, they were brought to Spain and other regions of Southern Europe and North Africa. In Andalusia they were considered an important ingredient for desserts and used to thicken marzipan and nougat.
Around the tenth century, pistachio cultivation is also spreading in China and only recently in Australia, New Mexico and California. Currently, as seen, cultivation is widespread especially in Iran, Turkey, Greece and Syria, has recently been introduced also in the United States.
Pistachios are used both shelled and peeled, often toasted and salted, also in pastry, to prepare ice creams, creams, beverages and for the production of cold meats (mortadella Bologna, for example), or as seasonal and first courses.
The food is made up of 83% by lipids, 12% by protein and 5% by carbohydrates.
Pistachio is considered to be a very healthy food, especially if we consider it to the natural, therefore not those that are on the market already salty. They are a source of vitamins (A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and C), they are rich in antioxidants and help protect the cardiovascular system. They are considered allies against hypertension (obviously without salt) because they do not contain sodium and reduce blood pressure, and also keep cholesterol under control.
Thanks to polyphenols, which have antioxidant properties, they are considered to be excellent antibacterial and valid weapons against free radicals and this makes pistachios antitumour food. They contain copper and therefore are helpful for those who suffer from anemia because they favor iron assimilation. They are suitable for those who have dry skin, thanks to the content of saturated fat, and are also good for the eyes thanks to lutein, beta-carotene and zeaxanthin. Pistachio is considered to be an excellent reconstitute due to the high content of mineral salts such as phosphorus, calcium, potassium and iron as well as the aforementioned vitamins.
Preparation Method –
To list all the pistachio uses in the kitchen, probably an entire encyclopedia would not be enough. It is used practically for all types of dishes, from appetizer to sweet. It is very popular for sauces and condiments in general, for first courses it is good for both rice and pasta and in particular is an indispensable ingredient for good pesto. Also for the second dish, it is used indiscriminately with meat or fish: among the most famous dishes is the lamb with pistachios. And let’s not forget it is used to flavor salami, especially mortadella.
But the real pistachio triumph is in pastry: ice cream, granite, chocolate sweets, cakes, nougat, cream of various types, biscuits and semifreddi are all very well linked to the pistachio.
However it is worth listing some pistachio recipes.
1. Keep ombrin with pistachios and confit tomatoes: pistachios can give you really intriguing tastes, scents and sensations, as in this tartar. In fact, this recipe gives flavor to the delicate meats of the egg and ensures a lively color touch. The dish is not difficult to make and is definitely effective, just remember to use crushed raw fish.
2. Pistachio pesto: when you say the word pesto, always think of that to the ligurian basil. The Italian tradition, in this case Sicilian, offers us other tasty variants such as the one with the green gold of Sicily, the pistachio. Taste it on the bruschetta or as a seasoning of a steaming pasta dish.
3. Creamy pasta, sausage and pistachio noodles: we are on the subject of first courses with this rich recipe, perhaps more suitable for a winter day but definitely satisfying. Pistachios will remind you of the summer holidays, the sun, the heat. Panne and sausage will heat your stomach and with a few simple ingredients you will find the peace of the senses.
4. Lemon and pistachio dumplings: these green fruits marry well with fish but also with meat. Try the pistachios in the panature of these delicious and crispy calf meatballs. Prepare them is easy, the trick is to balance the flavors well and be careful not to overdo it with the lemon scent.
5. Cous cous dolce: from Sicilian tradition comes this easy and fast dessert to prepare. It seems that the recipe is ancient and is passed down generations to generation. Certainly today there are many variants, but a basic rule is to use typical Sicilian ingredients such as pistachios. Then add almonds, honey, pine nuts, candied pumpkin, apples, cinnamon, dark chocolate drops … depending on your taste or your inspiration of the moment.
6. Pistachio cream: always from Sicily comes the recipe for this unforgettable spreadable cream. Just a few ingredients to turn pistachios into a breakfast or snack pleasure, to spread on the bread, or to make delicious cakes.
7. Pistachio Cake: As one of the most famous Sicilian cakes I can mention, another demonstration of how this land is deeply tied to one of its most typical and beloved products. It is a pistachio spanish sponge, enriched with pastry cream and covered with a crisp pistachio grain and dark chocolate.
8. Pistachio Semifreddo: For the finest palates we recommend this dessert, a classic of Italian cuisine with a velvety, enveloping flavor, and also with the other protagonist another dried fruit or almond. Serve it with a chocolate sauce.
9. Soft pistachio donut: this ingredient is so versatile that it passes with simplicity from the most elegant and elaborate preparations to everyday life. From the semifreddo we then pass a soft donut, perfect for breakfast or snack. The recipe is easy and the pistachios will give you that touch of originality that never breaks.
10. Pistachio Ice Cream: Let’s finish this delightful journey with a classic who can all agree. How can you give up ice cream? Let yourself be tempted by this preparation to build comfortably at home without any specific tools like ice cream. Perhaps, thinking that pistachios have so many beneficial properties, it will make us feel less guilty: for sure we will be happy and happy from the first taste.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. The Health of the Lord’s Pharmacy, Tips and Experiences with Medicinal Herbs, Ennsthaler Publisher
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora d’Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (eds.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
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