Sunday, May 8, 2011

Pistachio, Pistacia vera

There are 11 species in the genus Pistacea but only one specie, Pistacea vera is grown commercially. It is a small (6-10 m ) tree , native of Iran  and nearby territories that likes dry or very dry  environment  and needs about 1000 hours of temperatures under 45 F. It takes awhile for it to grow, old cultivars were bringing first fruit only at 15th, 17th year, but new varieties  start bringing  fruit at 5th , 6th year and by 12th-13th year enter  full production mode,  and bring about 50 kg of pistachios every other year  at least till they are 200 years old or so. Allegedly, the oldest pistachio tree is a 700 years old tree that still lives in Iran .Pistachio trees require at least one male tree for 25 female trees for proper pollination , though with 1:10 ratio  the harvest is better.
Old remains testify that pistachios were known to men  at least since  7000 BC, and were cultured at least since 3500 BC.
Pistachios used to be royalty-only treat for awhile in the ancient past. The queen of Sheba, mentioned in both Bible and Quran,  half-mythical  half-real contemporary of the king Solomon , allegedly had forbidden consumption of pistachios  to anybody but herself and  whomever she wanted  to treat well.
 The ancient king of Babylon,  Nebuchadnezzar,  had pistachio trees planted in his famous hanging gardens. Moghul Emperor, Akbar the Great, hosted royal banquets befitting his royal status.  The chickens to be supplied for the banquet were  on  pistachio nuts diet  for 6 to 8 weeks before the banquet, to add a delicious flavor/under taste  to the chicken meat.
Emperor Vitellius was a big fan of pistachios, after being a governor in Syria he got so hooked  that he was eating pistachios with every meal. still it is a bit weird that Vitellius got credited with pistachio introduction to Rome considering that Syria was a part of Rome since 64 BC, long before his birth, and that Pistachio tree was cultivated by Greek  and Phoenician colonists  in Sicily possibly even before the founding of the Rome itself. Currently Sicily is still producing pistachios, which have a sharper taste possibly due to rich vulcanic soils, but production is negligent ( about 2 000 tonnes per year  for an entire Italy), mostly because  Italian government  supports financially olive production instead. Sicilian pistachios are used almost entirely  within Italy, mostly as a gourmet ice-cream / gelato  flavoring. 
Interestingly enough, despite of collapse of Roman Empire  and  difficulties for  international trade in Early Dark Ages, pistachios  did not disappear from  European markets.
According to Islamic legend , pistachio nuts were one of the first foods brought from heaven to the Earth by Adam. Pistachio was one of the two nuts mentioned in Bible  ( Genesis 43:11).
Pistachios, from Persian " pista"  are called the ''green almonds''  and are known as the ' 'smiling nut'' in Iran and the 'happy nut' in China.
Pistachios are extremely healthy nuts, it is proven that it optimizes your cholesterol levels, and in that particular study  people who consumed 3 ounces of nuts per day had better results than people who consumed  only 1.5 ounces daily.
There are strong suggestions that pistachios will lower your chance of getting lung cancer, as well as some other cancers, and that  consumption  of pistachios will lower your chances of getting diabetes.
However, just as pretty much all other nuts, pistachios are rich in alpha-linolenic acid, which , while lowes the risk of cardiovascular desease, has an unfortunate correlation with prostate cancer. There was a big study in 2006  in favor of this acid , and another in 2009 finding a bias  in  that big study.
I didnt look into these studies but my take on the issue is rather simple: one has to die  one way or another. Since  consumption of alpha-linoleic acid  is reducing  risk of cardiovascular desease, it accordingly increases your chances of dying from some other  calamity, which is,  in advanced age,  cancer. A 70 year old man who  has a healthy heart is far more likely to die of cancer than a 70-year old man with a sick heart. Which does not mean of course that a healthy heart in advanced age is something to sneeze at.
Pistachios are rich in vitamin E, lutein, beta carotene, . All three of these  vitamins are oil soluble. Pistachios are also great sources of  copper, manganese, and phosphorous along with heart healthy magnesium and potassium . Pistachios are the only nuts to contain  two carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin.
Arginine  from pistachios  will help people who suffer from anginas, or  who had a trauma.
Arginine is  important  in cell division, releasing hormones, removing ammonia ,  and helping maintain a functioning  immune system.
Production . In 2009,  572 946 tonnes of pistachios were produced, leaving an average consumer with  84.1 grams of  (in-shell) pistachios   in that year. That is about 44 grams of pistachio meats,  which is about 75-77 individual pistachios. Each pistachio has 3.1-3.3 calories, mostly in good monounsaturated fats.
Israel has the highest per-capita consumption in the world , about 1.3 pounds of pistachios per person. Interestingly that for a very long time Israel was breaking its own embargo on Iranian pistachios, by buying  Iranian pistachios from Turkish and Syrian middlemen.
USA banned import of Iranian pistachios in  1979,  allegedly in the course of a hostage crisis ( yeah, its surely got nothing to do with Californian orchards maturing  and producing  first commercial crop of pistachios in 1976). After the ban was lifted in early 1980s (1981 i think)commercial growers in USA complained  on affordability of Iranian pistachios and lobbied a 300% duty tax on all  Iranian pistachios, and  later  in 1987 all products from Iran were banned. Clinton lifted the ban on foods from Iran, (March of 2000)  but kept high duties, and Obama banned pistachios again in July 1 of 2010. US market of pistachios is around $700-800 million.
Iran is the biggest in the world producer of pistachios,  192 269 tons in 2008,  315 500 tons in 2007. However  USA soon will  surpass Iran in pistachio production as more and more orchards  are  beginning to mature, and the weather wasn't very good in Iran for the last 2 years or so.
In 2010,  USA produced  237 804 tonnes  of pistachios ( no data  for Iran yet ). A lot of American pistachios are exported to Asia-- China ( largest pistachio consumer in the world by volume, 120 million pounds per year, US sales went up from $5 to $50 million within 5 years, Arnold Shwarzenegger himself went to China, Japan and South Korea  to peddle  his Californian nuts there.)
Syria produced  more pistachios per capita than anyone else in 2009  ( 2.92 kg )

Worldwide, pistachio trees occupy  0.381% of all permanent crop land in the world. For Iran, the number is 19.2%.
There are enough calories in the world's crop of  pistachios to supply 2.37 million people ( combined populations of Namibia and Seychelles) with 2000 calories a day, and enough protein to supply over 3.5 million people with 50 grams per day.
Largest crop of pistachios ever was in 2007,  686 667 tons, lowest since 1961--- 19 440 tonnes in 1962.
Land usage from 1962 to 2009 increased   by 1750%.
Yields,  highest world's average was in 1997, 1405 kg per hectare, lowest since 1961-- 421.7 kg per hectare in 1979.
Best individual yield belongs to USA, 4182 kg per hectare in 2004. In fact USA production growing faster than the pistachio market itself. With salmonella scare from the last year,  leading producer invested $15 million into advocating  pistachios, they even have a commercial where former  governor Blagoevich is taking a bribe in pistachios.
Prices: 1 pound of salted and roasted nuts is selling for $7-8 per pound in retail. I was fortunate enough to buy  several  24-oz packages for $5.99 plus tax. ( today).  World's crop is about $4-5 billion worth.

My usual sources are,,., Thank you for your visit!

List of all articles at Ironrye:

Production of pistachios by country       2007      2008      2009

Afganistan           pistachios                3600         2500         ?
Azerbaijan          pistachios                       3               3         2    
China                 pistachios               38000      40000      45000
Cote d'Ivoire      pistachios                    100          100          ?
Cyprus               pistachios                      25            24         40
Greece               pistachios               8148          8100       8100
Iran                    pistachios            315500      192269          ?
Italy                   pistachios                2782           2000          ?
Jordan               pistachios                     0                 0           ?
Kyrgyzstan        pistachios                  800               800         800
Madagascar      pistachios                  230              230           ?
Mauritius           pistachios                      5                   5          ?
Mexico             pistachios                      10                10         ?
Morocco          pistachios                      50                   50         ?
Pakistan           pistachios                     536                 773          ?
Syria                pistachios                 52066            52600       61484
Tunisia             pistachios                   2500              2500        ?
Turkey            pistachios                  73416          120113       81795 
USA               pistachios                188696          126100     175088
Uzbekistan      pistachios                      200                200              ?
WORLD         pistachios               686667           548377     572946

Φιστικιά ---- Greek



פיסטוק    Hebrew

Portuguese --Pistache

Bulgarian --- Шамфъстък

Turkish --- Antep fıstığı 

 Gujarati --    ޕިސްތާ ބަދަން


 arabic -- پسته

 farsi --  فستق

No comments:

Post a Comment