Let’s take an escapade with a plant native to the Arab world and Central Asia. Areas like Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan act as major contributors to the plight of this plant. Our featured plant grows as a small tree. It delivers delectable, edible seeds that are enjoyed by cultures all over the world.
As the 19th century unfolded, the tree meandered its way over to the United States. Flourishing in states like California, Arizona and New Mexico. Hovering around 25-30 feet tall and amazingly, it can live upwards of 300 years.
Oftentimes misconstrued as a nut, these sweet morsels are technically classified as seeds.
Have you zeroed in on it? I think you might be on the right track. Okay then…
Let’s circumvent the pistachio tree!
The edible portion of a pistachio tree is the seed. It grows inside the tree fruit, which is known as a drupe. The drupe hardens as it dries out, enclosing the seed inside a hard shell. Sometimes the shell splits as it hardens. If you listen closely, you can actually hear the pop as it cracks open. Pretty neat to hear natural sounds of flora like that.
Pistachios are an extremely healthy snack. Copious amounts of nutrients crammed inside one tiny seed. Some of the more popular health benefits include the following.
- High in protein, but low in calories (unlike most nuts, which are high in calories).
- More antioxidants in a pistachio than most other nuts or seeds. This helps prevent cell damage in the human body. Also reduces the risk of cancer and other nasty diseases.
- Pistachios are one of the biggest hitters in regards to Vitamin B6. Plays a vital role in keeping our immune system and nervous systems healthy.
- High in potassium. Since the human body doesn’t produce potassium naturally, it’s critical to eat foods containing potassium.
- High source of fiber. This helps normalize our bowel movements, amongst other things.
As with any food, consuming to much of any one thing is not a good idea. If you buy roasted pistachios from a store, be careful, they are usually salted. This renders them high in sodium and eating to much sodium can lead to heart disease or high blood pressure.
A pistachio tree is difficult to grow. Found almost exclusively in orchards due to the complications of growing such bountiful trees. It takes nearly a decade before you will see any significant crop form. It’s more like 20 years before a tree operates at a peak performance.
Growing a pistachio tree is hindered by one major factor. Both a male and female tree are required to produce fruit. One male tree can handle about 25-30 female trees. They should be planted close to one another. Pollen from the male tree will hitch a ride in the wind to pollinate the female trees. She then bears the weight of the fruit. Raise your hand if this sounds familiar ladies!
Some of the finest pistachio trees in the world are located in Sicily. Rich volcanic soil make it an ideal growing site. Police must keep patrols in the area to ensure everything is kosher with their prized trees.
When ready to eat, cracking open a shell can be an arduous task. Some come with a natural crack, making them easier to open. Other shells are closed up completely and you will need to apply significant force to crack them open.
The pistachio is a fixture in many cultures around the world. Chinese cultures consider them a “happy nut.” The cracked shell gives it the appearance of a smiling face. They are often gifted as a sign of happiness and good fortune.
In the Middle East, pistachio trees have fueled the economy dating back thousands of years ago. Iran is currently the leading producer in the world. The United States follows close behind.
As our pistachio trip draws to a close, we end with a few fun facts.
China consumes more pistachios than any other nation. With an increasing appetite for these delicious seeds, prices continue to climb. The world has finally become wise to the host of health benefits pistachios provide.
The closest botanical relatives of the pistachio tree include cashews, poison ivy and mangos. If you’re asking yourself, how are these plants related, it may help to recall my blog on poison ivy. The sap that fuels the PI rashes, is known as urushiol. This same sap is found in varying potencies in these trees.
February 26th is National Pistachio Day. A day when lovers of the tree prepare meals, share recipes and frolic in the joy they have for everything pistachio!
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