modern pistachio nut was first selected from wild Pistacia vera trees native to
central Asia. The initial selection and improvement was first undertaken in the
era of the Persian Empire which spanned from Eastern Mediterranean to central
Asia. Ever since, pistachios have been an important crop in cooler parts of Iranian
cultivation spread into the Mediterranean world where it has continuously
prospered in Syria, Turkey, Greece and Sicily. Pistachios were already well
known in Late Antiquity. Since 1970s, pistachios have become a commercial crop
in many countries which fall around the 30th parallel north and south of the
equator. These regions include: California, North Africa, New South Wales in
Australia, South Africa, Argentina and Chile.
pistachio of commerce is the only edible species among the 11 species in the
genus Pistacia; all are characterized by their ability to exude turpentine or
mastic. Several are referred to as pistachios, but the name is generally
reserved for the edible nut of commerce. Its Latin name is Pistacia vera L. A
member of the family Anacardiaceae, it is related to the cashew, mango, poison
ivy and oak, pepper tree and sumac.
Pistachio is a relatively small tree mostly grown in the arid parts of the
world close to 30th parallel latitude. It grows from sea level (e.g. Attica,
Greece) to an altitude of 1800 meter above sea level (e.g. Kerman, Iran). The
combination of latitude and altitude should provide enough chilling hours in
winter and long hot and sunny summer conditions to produce a viable crop.
bear laterally on one-year-old wood. This causes an alternate bearing habit,
very prominent in pistachio production
with extensive commercial consequences.
tree is deciduous, i.e. it loses its leaves in the fall and remains dormant
through the winter. The tree is dioecious (i.e. two houses), meaning the male
flowers are borne on one tree and the female flowers on another. Therefore,
both male and female trees are needed for nut production. The pollen is spread
trees have extensive root systems allowing them to mine the soil deeply. Thus,
pistachios are adapted to survive long periods of drought. They need a
well-drained soil. In such soils, the tree can tolerate relatively high levels
of salinity in soil and/or irrigation water.