Pistachio – Pistacia vera

Pistachio nuts - with and without the shell
Pistachio nuts – with and without the shell

There once was a girl named Pistachio Penny.

Who lived in a kingdom of Pistachio Plenty.

Her father was the king and her mother was the queen.

And their beautiful castle was pistachio green…


By Samia Ali Arroyo 

Do you remember the first time you were introduced to Pistachios? I do, I was maybe 8 or 9 years old. My mother served us a special treat. We all looked forward to ice cream! BUT, when she brought out this green frozen stuff that had lumps in it…I was turned off. I know now it was a psychological response, but then and there I decided I hated Pistachios, the color, the taste, everything about them! A few years later my little brother brought home a bag of red shelled nuts, I didn’t like them either. When my hands were wet the dye stained my skin, and the taste was not to my liking. It was later I learned that they were one and the same with the lumpy stuff in what Mom called Pistachio ice cream!


This small native tree of Afghanistan, Iran, and the Islamic Republic of Turkmenistan grows in hilly and mountainous regions and is a member of the Sumac family. It is cousins with cashews, mangos, mombins (Spondias spp.) poison ivy, poison oak, and sumacs. This nut has been a popular delicacy since ancient history, some say since history began to be recorded! It has been cultivated for centuries, but in North America it was finally brought to California in the late 1890’s by a Syrian immigrant. Commercial plantings did not start there until 1970.


The seed (nut) is used as a sedative and tonic, with the use in Syria being for a sedative and as a digestive. In China the plan has been used to treat abdominal ailments, abscesses, amenorrhea, bruises, chest ailments, circulation, dysentery, gynecopathy, pruritus, rheumatism, sclerosis of the liver, sores and trauma.


A 100 gram portion of the edible nut has 594 calories, and the flavor is said to be pleasantly mild. The nut is rich in oil and is widely used in confections such as ice cream, cakes, and pies. Some reports say that it can even make a marmalade…? The Creation of the ice cream is credited to James W. Parkinson of Philadelphia somewhere around 1940.


This has been a very popular nut through history, and according to old tradition Emperor Vitellius of Rome brought them to Rome in A.D. 50, and finished off every meal by stuffing his mouth full of the nuts! The Queen of Shebah (possibly today’s Yemen) was so fond of them she declared all the pistachios grown in Assyria to be hers alone!!

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