AskDefine | Define pistachio

Dictionary Definition



1 small tree of southern Europe and Asia Minor bearing small hard-shelled nuts [syn: Pistacia vera, pistachio tree]
2 nut of Mediterranean trees having an edible green kernel [syn: pistachio nut]

User Contributed Dictionary



From pistacchio, from pistacium, from πιστάκιον, from πιστάκη, from پسته.


  1. A deciduous tree, Pistacia vera, grown in parts of Asia for its drupaceous fruit
  2. The nutlike fruit of this tree



Extensive Definition

This article is about the tree; for the Pistachio microkernel, see L4 microkernel family.
The pistachio (Pistacia vera L., Anacardiaceae; sometimes placed in Pistaciaceae) is a small tree up to 10 m tall, native to mountainous regions of Iran, Turkmenistan and western Afghanistan. It has deciduous pinnate leaves 10–20 cm long.
The plants are dioecious, with separate male and female trees. The flowers are apetalous and unisexual, and borne in panicles. The fruit is a drupe, containing an elongated seed (a nut in the culinary sense, but not a true botanical nut) with a hard, whitish shell and a striking kernel which has a mauvish skin and light green flesh, with a distinctive flavour.
When the fruit ripens, the husk changes from green to an autumnal yellow/red and the shells split partially open (see photo). This is known as dehiscence, and happens with an audible pop.
Each pistachio nut weighs around 1 gram, and each pistachio tree averages around 50 kg of nuts, or around 50,000, every two years. Pistachios (as part of the pistacia genus) have existed for about 80 million years.


Pistachio is often confused with some of the other nine species in the genus Pistacia, such as P. terebinthus and P. lentiscus. These species have a very different distribution, in the Mediterranean and southwest Asia, and have much smaller nuts, lacking the hard shell of P. vera. Their turpentine-flavoured nuts were a popular food in antiquity. Finds of Pistacia from pre-classical archaeological sites, or references in pre-classical texts, always refer to one of these other species (often P. terebinthus).
Pistachio (in the sense of P. vera) was first cultivated in Western Asia. It reached the Mediterranean world by way of central Iran, where it has long been an important crop. Although known to the Romans, the pistachio nut appears not to have reached the Mediterranean or most of the Near East in any quantity before medieval times. More recently pistachio has been cultivated in California (first commercial harvest in 1976) and Australia. The word pistachio is a Persian loanword, coming into English through Italian, and is a cognate to the Modern Persian word پسته ''Peste'.

Cultivation and uses

Share of a total 2005 worldwide production of 501 thousand metric tonnes: California produces almost all U.S. pistachios, and about half of these are exported, mainly to China, Japan, Europe and Canada. Almost all California pistachios are of the cultivar 'Kerman'. The tree is grafted to a rootstock when the rootstock is one year old. Only a few years after California growers started growing pistachios, the 1979 crisis in Iran would give stronger commercial impetus to the American-based pistachio nut industry. Previous to that time, most Westerners were familiar with only the slightly smaller, deeply red-hued (dyed) nuts produced mainly in Iran, where it is the second largest export after oil.

Notes and references

See also

pistachio in Arabic: فستق
pistachio in Catalan: Pistatxer
pistachio in Danish: Pistacie
pistachio in German: Pistazie
pistachio in Estonian: Harilik pistaatsia
pistachio in Modern Greek (1453-): Φιστικιά
pistachio in Spanish: Pistacia vera
pistachio in Esperanto: Pistakujo
pistachio in Persian: پسته
pistachio in French: Pistache
pistachio in Italian: Pistacia vera
pistachio in Hebrew: פיסטוק
pistachio in Upper Sorbian: Prawa pistacija
pistachio in Dutch: Pistache
pistachio in Japanese: ピスタチオ
pistachio in Polish: Pistacja właściwa
pistachio in Portuguese: Pistache
pistachio in Russian: Фисташковое дерево
pistachio in Slovenian: Pistacija
pistachio in Serbian: Пистаћ
pistachio in Finnish: Pistaasipähkinä
pistachio in Swedish: Pistasch
pistachio in Thai: พิสทาชิโอ
pistachio in Turkish: Antepfıstığı
pistachio in Chinese: 开心果
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