Pistachio, a member of the Chucho family, is a small tree that originates from Central Asia and the Middle East. The tree produces seeds that are widely used as food.
Pistacia vera is often confused with other species of the genus Pistacia, also known as pistachios. These other species can be identified by their geographical distribution (in nature) and their grains that are much smaller and have a soft shell.
Since 2017, Iran has accounted for more than half of the world’s pistachio production.
The pistachio tree is native to regions of Central Asia, including present-day Iran and Afghanistan. Archaeology shows that pistachio seeds were a common food as early as 6750 BCE.Pliny the Elder writes in his Natural History that pistacia, “well known among us”, was one of the trees unique to Syria, and that the seed was introduced into Italy by the Roman Proconsul in Syria, Lucius Vitellius the Elder (in office in 35 CE) and into Hispania at the same time by Flaccus Pompeius.The early sixth-century manuscript De observatione ciborum (“On the observance of foods”) by Anthimus implies that pistacia remained well known in Europe in Late Antiquity. Archaeologists have found evidence from excavations at Jarmo in northeastern Iraq for the consumption of Atlantic pistachio.The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were said to have contained pistachio trees during the reign of King Merodach-Baladan about 700 BCE.
The modern pistachio P. vera was first cultivated in Bronze Age Central Asia, where the earliest example is from Djarkutan, modern Uzbekistan.It appears in Dioscurides as pistakia πιστάκια, recognizable as P. vera by its comparison to pine nuts.
In the 19th century, the pistachio was cultivated commercially in parts of the English-speaking world, such as Australia along with New Mexico and California where it was introduced in 1854 as a garden tree. In 1904 and 1905, David Fairchild of the United States Department of Agriculture introduced hardier cultivars to California collected from China, but it was not promoted as a commercial crop until 1929.Walter T. Swingle’s pistachios from Syria had already fruited well at Niles, California, by 1917.