Almonds and pistachios are the only two nuts mentioned in the ancient religious text that is accepted by Muslims, Jews and Christians (known as the Tevrat, the Torah or the Old Testament of the Bible). Both were first cultivated in Anatolia. Ground almonds became the basis for the favourite sauce of the early Ottoman sultans, and crushed pistachios became the basis for their favourite desert—baklava.
The world’s best pistachios come from Gaziantep in southeastern Anatolia. That’s been the case since at least the year 100, when the Roman emperor Trajan organised regular deliveries of pistachios from the village of Zeugma to Rome. They are expensive but versatile—the wild form makes an interesting form of coffee. Turkey is the third-largest producer in the world, but Iranian and Californian varieties are arguably of lesser quality. Gaziantep pistachios are harvested in midsummer, when they are small enough to be best for baklava.