Pistachios – a Snack That’s Good for You

Wondering what is the most nutritional snack nut? It’s the pistachio. Compared with other nuts, pistachios are one of the lowest calorie, highest in protein and vitamin B6, and one of the lowest in fat. Consume 30 pistachios and you’ve ingested 100 calories of good dietary fiber and protein. Scientific studies have concluded that substitution of pistachio nuts for snacks instead of other fat calorie treats can improve lipid profiles, thereby decreasing coronary risk.

The pistachio tree originated from Persia. Pistachio trees thrive well in the desert because they are drought and salt tolerant, requiring long hot summers for fruit maturation. The trees have alternate bearing years and are known to be disease prone. Pistachio orchards have been established in regions of Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, India, Pakistan, Egypt and Sicily. It takes 7 to 10 years for a pistachio tree to yield decent production results and 20 years to reach peak production with heights up to 33 feet. Every 2 years a single mature pistachio tree yields up to 50,000 nuts. Once harvested, the best method of drying pistachios is through exposure to the sun. After the drying process, the nuts are roasted or processed by specially designed machines.

According to Jackie Newgent, RD, people have been enjoying pistachio nuts for at least 9,000 years. Pistachios have been incorporated into many Eastern Mediterranean, Italian and Moroccan cuisines. And it wasn’t until the early 1970’s that US domestic production of pistachios became established. Pistachios are the most successful crop ever to be introduced to the United States in the last century. California’s first commercial crop was in 1976 and they are now annually producing more than 500 million pounds of pistachios.

All grades of pistachio nuts are exported. Open-shelled nuts are the largest exported variety and a small percentage of closed shell and kernals are in demand for export. China is the biggest consumer of pistachio nuts.

Pistachios go well with many food groups. You’ll see this culinary nut combined with fruits, vegetables, herbs, dairy products, sweets, meat, fish and grains.

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