Strange fact: The improper storage of pistachio products in bulk containers has been known to start fires. Because of their high fat and low water contents, the nuts and especially kernels are prone to self-heating and spontaneous combustion when stored with the oil-soaked fiber/fibrous materials.
Pistachio nuts are not only tasty and fun to eat but also super healthy. They are a great source of healthy fats, fiber, protein, antioxidants, and various nutrients, including vitamin B6 and thiamine. Their health effects may also include weight loss benefits, lower cholesterol and blood sugar, and improved gut, eye, and blood vessel health. What's more, they're delicious.
Pistachio nuts are a member of the cashew family and the tree has been variously described as being native to Central Asia (including Afghanistan), Iran and Western Asia.
Archaeology shows that pistachio seeds were a common food as early as 6750 BCE. Pliny the Elder wrote about them in his Natural History and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were said to have contained pistachio trees during the reign of King Merodach-Baladan about 700 BC.
Originally cultivated in Central Asia, more recently, the pistachio has been cultivated commercially in parts of the English-speaking world, such as Australia and in the United States in New Mexico and California.
The tree grows up to 33 feet tall and has deciduous leaves (they fall off) 4–8 inches long. The trees are dioecious, meaning there are separate male and female trees.
The fruit is a drupe. i.e. it has a fleshy fruit with a thin skin and a central stone containing the seed...like a plum, cherry, almond or olive.
The fruit has a hard, cream-colored exterior shell. The seed has a mauve-colored skin and light green flesh, with a distinctive flavor. When the fruit ripens, the shell changes from green to an autumnal yellow/red and abruptly splits partly open. This is known as dehiscence, and happens with an audible pop.
The shell of the pistachio is naturally a beige color, but it is sometimes dyed red or green in commercial pistachios. At one time pistachios were dyed red. Why? Originally, dye was applied by importers to hide stains on the shells caused when the seeds were picked by hand. Most pistachios are now picked by machine and the shells remain unstained, making dyeing unnecessary except to meet ingrained consumer expectations.
The pistachio tree is long-lived, possibly up to 300 years. The trees are planted in orchards and take approximately seven to ten years to reach significant production. Production is biennial-bearing, meaning the harvest is heavier in alternate years. Peak production is reached around 20 years. Each pistachio tree averages around 110 pounds of seeds.
After hulling and drying, pistachios are sorted according to open-mouth and closed-mouth shells, then roasted or processed by special machines to produce pistachio kernels.
Pistachio nuts contain healthy fats and are a good source of protein, fiber, and antioxidants. What’s more, they contain several essential nutrients and can aid weight loss and heart and gut health.
# Pistachios are very nutritious. They are high in protein, fiber, and antioxidants. Pistachios are one of the most vitamin B6-rich foods around. Vitamin B6 is important for several bodily functions, including blood sugar regulation and the formation of hemoglobin, a molecule that carries oxygen in red blood cells. Pistachios are also rich in potassium, with one ounce containing more potassium than half of a large banana.
# High in antioxidants. They prevent cell damage and play a key role in reducing the risk of disease, such as cancer. Pistachios contain more antioxidants than most other nuts and seeds. In fact, only walnuts and pecans contain more. Among nuts, pistachios have the highest content of lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which are very important antioxidants for eye health. They protect your eyes from damage caused by blue light and age-related macular degeneration.
# Low in calories yet high in protein. Pistachios are among the lowest-calorie nuts. They also have a higher ratio of essential amino acids than any other nut. Amino acids are considered essential because your body cannot make them, so you must obtain them from your diet.
# May aid weight loss. Pistachios are rich in fiber and protein, both of which increase feelings of fullness and help you eat less.
# Promote healthy gut bacteria. Pistachios are high in fiber. Fiber moves through your digestive system mostly undigested and some types of fiber are digested by the good bacteria in your gut, acting as prebiotics. Gut bacteria then ferment the fiber and convert it into short-chain fatty acids, which may have several health benefits, including a reduced risk of developing digestive disorders, cancer, and heart disease.
# May lower cholesterol and blood pressure thus lowering your risk of heart disease.
# May promote blood vessel health. Pistachios are a great source of the amino acid L-arginine. Therefore, they may play an important role in promoting blood vessel health.
# May help lower blood sugar. Despite having a higher carb content than most nuts, pistachios have a low glycemic index, meaning they don't cause large blood sugar spikes. Studies have shown that eating pistachios can help promote healthy blood sugar levels.
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