History of the pistachio – in a nutshell

History of the Australian Pistachio Industry

Australian farmers accepted the challenge of a new crop and began commercial plantings of pistachio in the early 1980’s. Many horticultural difficulties caused delays. In the late 1990’s Australian pistachios finally became readily available. Grown under good conditions, pistachios take six years to produce the first nuts and 12 years to reach full maturity. The trees have a commercial life of over 50 years. There are about 45 Australian growers with about 950 hectares of trees planted. Most are planted along the Murray River across the borders of NSW, Victoria and South Australia but there are orchards as far north as Tamworth NSW and as far west as Western Australia. The deciduous pistachio trees need very hot summers and very cold winters to produce well. The Australian trees currently planted have the capacity to produce in an ‘on-year’ of 2,000 tonnes per annum, this is about 75% the current Australian domestic consumption. However, the consumption of pistachios in Australia is rising rapidly as consumers learn to appreciate the fine taste of this healthy fun snack food.

History of the pistachio.

The American Pistachio Growers (www.americanpistachios.org) have put together a suberp history of the pistachio tree, reproduced below:

Pistachio Origins

Pistachio trees have grown in the Middle East for thousands of years. Pistachios have always been a desired delicacy in this region. Pistachios are mentioned in the Old Testament (Genesis 43:11).

In Persia (modern day Iran), pistachio trade and ownership of pistachio groves meant riches and high status. Legend has it that pistachios were a favorite of the Queen of Sheba, who demanded all her land’s production for herself and her court. Through the conquests of Alexander the Great (334-323 BC), the nut reached Greece. Later, under the rule of the Roman Emperor Tiberius (First Century AD), the nut was also introduced into Italy and Spain


A 450 year old Pistachio Tree in Petra, Jordan. Photo credit Jono Cusack.

Annals of the Caliphs’ Kitchens: Ibn Sayyār al-Warrāq’s Tenth-Century Baghdadi CookbookBy Nawal Nasrallah, Chapter 17 references pistachios: “Oil of pistachio (duhn ap-fustuq) is hot and moist and thereby is recommended for coughs and chest and kidney pain.  It may be useful in treating scorpion stings.  Eating pistachio nuts themselves will have the same benefit.

Traded Goods between the Orient and Europe

The cultivation area of the pistachio expanded further with the spread of Islam and the resulting Arab expansion. Alongside the Crusades, the Levant trade in the Middle Ages was also widespread. The Venetian Republic, in particular, had close trade ties with Syria, one of the main cultivation areas for the pistachio. The goods reached Northern and Central Italy via the sea trade routes.


Pistachios for sale in the Main Bazaar in Tehran, Iran.

Pistachios Cross the Alps

North of the Alps, the pistachio remained unknown for a long time. Upon reaching Central Europe, it was called the “Latin Penny Nut” because of its introduction from the Italian sales route, over the Alpine passes.
While the pistachio was used from early on in various ways for cooking in Italy, north of the Alps it was used primarily as an expensive addition to bakery goods. Only after World War II did the pistachio image gradually change from an expensive baking additive to a popular snack.

From:  http://www.americanpistachios.org/power-of-pistachios/history

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