Pistachios made their way to the United States in the 1880s, but have been cultivated in the Middle East since Biblical times. These 20-foot tall trees thrive in stony, poor soil under high heat, and need little or no rain, but cannot tolerate humidity or excessive moisture. These trees can live for centuries with no care necessary. In fact, Iran claims it has a 700-year-old tree still living. Pistachios start to crack on their own when they are ripe. They are harvested simply - a machine shakes the tree and the fruits just fall off. They are gathered up and soaked to removed the fleshy covering, then the actual nut is dried in the sun.
Five Fun Facts:
- Pistachios are not really nuts - they are actually the seeds of red or yellow plum-like fruits. The flesh is discarded during processing.
- The Queen of Sheba made an official declaration, so the story goes, that pistachios were an exclusive royal food.
- Pistachios are called "the smiling nut" in Iran, and "the happy nut" in China.
- A pistachio tree takes between 7 and 10 year to mature and bear fruit.
- Pistachios are an excellent source of vitamin B6, copper and manganese and a good source of protein, fiber, thiamin, and phosphorus.
Five Pistachio Recipes:
- Pistachio-Crusted Tuna Steaks -Mustard and dill contribute a wallop of flavor to this tuna dish; pistachios provide the crunch.
- Wild Rice with Dried Apricots & Pistachios- Colorful apricots, scallions and pistachios make this vibrant dish worthy of any holiday table. Since wild rice (really a grass) does not absorb liquid to the extent that true rice and other grains do, cook it in boiling water and saute the vegetables separately so they stay tender-crisp.
- Lamb Chops with Pistachio Crust- Dynamite combo. Crushed pistachios add flavor and a delightfully crunchy crust to lamb chops. Baby lamb chops are tender and delicious, but to make enough for 4 people would take more than 15 minutes. However, if you have the time, roll up your sleeves and use the baby chops. You will need about 3-4 per person.
- Roasted Pistachio-Crusted Salmon -This dish takes just minutes to prepare. In the summer you can make this on the grill using indirect heat and a closed cover.
- Tropical Fruits with Pistachios & Coconut - Luscious tropical fruit topped with creamy coconut milk and crunchy pistachios is a simple yet delicious dessert.
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Nutritional Information per 1/2 cup of raw pistachios:
Fat: 28 g
Carbohydrates: 17 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 1 mg
Protein: 12 g
Sugars: 5 g