Pistachio

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

pistachio Pistacia vera, a small tree native to Afghanistan, bears nuts which have for long been highly prized. The species was introduced to the Levant, Turkey and Greece after the campaigns of Alexander the Great (d. 323 bc), and to Italy and Spain soon after.

The genus Pistacia also includes the trees which produce mastic (an edible resin) and the terebinth tree (P. terebinthus). These trees bear small fruits whose seeds (nuts) were used as food in the E. Mediterranean and Iran as early as 7000 bc. They were familiar to ancient Mesopotamia, and the classical Greeks regarded them as a typical food of the imperial Persians. The seeds are still sometimes eaten and are the source of an edible oil. They have a resinous flavour of which there is also a trace in some varieties of P. vera, especially wild trees.