World Pistachio Day- February 26
February 26th is World Pistachio Day, so why not take a moment to reflect on the amazing history of this wonderful nut? Originating from the Middle East, pistachios are one of the oldest flowering nut trees with evidence suggesting that humans were enjoying them as early as 7,000 B.C. Back then, pistachios were considered food for the royal and privileged. Legend has it that pistachios were a favorite delicacy of the Queen of Sheba.
Lovers used to meet under moonlit pistachio trees and listen to the cracking of shells which was considered a sign of a happy relationship!
Pistachios were first planted in the U.S. in the 1930s. From this point it took nearly 10 years of careful research and breeding before the California pistachio – also known as the Kerman variety – was finally perfected. Today, California produces more than 400 million pounds of pistachios each year making it a leading producer of pistachios worldwide.
In early times, pistachios were hand harvested and shaken from the trees onto a piece of cloth on the ground. Today, Californian pistachios benefit from modern technology as mechanical tree shakers knock pistachios onto a catching frame, ensuring not a nut touches the ground.
Going Nuts for Pistachios Across the Globe
Nearly half of California’s crop of pistachios are now exported around the world where they are enjoyed by many cultures. In China, the pistachio is known as the “happy nut” because it looks like its smiling. Often given as a gift during the Chinese New Year, pistachios are a symbol of health, happiness and good fortune.
Israel, with 7 million snackers consuming 9 million pounds, is the leader per capita for pistachio consumption. In India, pistachios are a major part of the population’s diet and are used in the popular saffron pistachio drink, “Shree Guruji Kesar Pista Sharbat.” Pistachios are considered a “hot food” in India and are believed to help keep the body warm and are typically enjoyed during the cold winter months. Conversely, in Russia pistachios are enjoyed as a popular snack to accompany beer during the warm summer months.
In France, where “snack” is not part of the vocabulary, pistachios are served as part of the occasion known as “aperitif,” a light beverage and snack served before a meal to stimulate the appetite. In Mexico, pistachios are a popular treat sold in the streets and on the highways by street vendors, making them an enjoyable treat during daily traffic jams.