Cultivated in California, Italy, Turkey and Iran, the pistachio has a hard, tan shell that encloses a pale green nut. The shells of some pistachios are colored red (with vegetable dye), while others have been blanched until white.
The California Pistachio Commission states that these nuts are dyed for two reasons: because many people find that form familiar; and so they’re easier to spot in a bowl of mixed nuts. Pistachios are available year-round shelled and unshelled, either raw or roasted and salted or not.
When buying unshelled pistachios make sure the shells are partially open-not only because it’s a great help in getting the nutmeat out, but because closed shells mean the nutmeat is immature.
Pistachio nuts have a delicate, subtle flavor that is wonderful either for eating out of hand or for flavoring both sweet and savory dishes. Pistachio nuts are rich in calcium, thiamine, phosphorus, iron and Vitamin A.
The pistachio, Pistacia vera, a member of the cashew family, is a small tree originally from Central Asia and the Middle East. Pistachio trees can be found in regions of Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Tunisia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Italy (Sicily), Uzbekistan, Afghanistan (especially in the provinces of Samangan and Badghis), and the United States, specifically in California. The tree produces a seed.
Pistacia vera often is confused with other species in the genus Pistacia that are also known as pistachio. These species can be distinguished from P. vera by their geographic distributions (in the wild), and their seeds which are much smaller and have a shell that is not hard.