The pistachio is one of the "oldest" edible nuts on earth. The pistachio has a long and interesting history as early as 7,000 B.C. The pistachio’s high nutritional value and long storage life has made it an indispensable travel item among early explorers and traders. Along with almonds, pistachios were frequently carried by travellers across the ancient Silk Road that connected East with the West.
Pistachios grow in heavy grape-like clusters surrounded by a hull. Pistachios ripen in late summer or early autumn, their hulls becoming rosy and their inner shells splitting naturally along their sutures. Pistachio orchards can successfully bear nuts for centuries in “alternate-bearing” cycles, i.e., their crop yield is heavy one year and light the next. The pistachios produce male and female flowers on separate trees.
During pollination both male and female trees must be present and wind, not bees, will carry pollen from male to female flowers. At harvest time, mechanical “tree-shakers” shake the pistachio of tree. Soon after, pistachios get loaded and transported into the processing plant to be hulled and dried immediately.
Commercial growing of pistachios began in Iran in the 1800's. Other world producers include the USA, Turkey and Australia. Australian farmers began commercial plantings of pistachio in the early 1980’s. In the late 1990’s Australian pistachios finally became readily available. The Australian pistachio trees currently produce about 75% the current domestic consumption.
The pistachio has a delicious flavour and a high nutritious value. The fruit of the pistachio is characteristic for green colour and the partial opening of the shell, which in Iran is called the "smiling pistachio". Pistachio is the only edible nut, which does not need to be shelled. They are mostly marketed in their in their shell form, roasted and salted, but they can be purchased shelled. They are mainly used as a snack and in confectionery and ice cream.