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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Pistachios

Pistachios:

About:

The pistachio (Pistacia vera) which is amember of the cashew family, is a small tree originating in Central Asia and the Mi9ddle East.  The tree produces seeds which are widely consumed as food.  The word pistachio is from the Medieval Italian "pistaccio".   Pistachio is a desert plant and is highly tolerant of saline soil.   It is reported to growwell when irrigated.  Pistachio trees are fairly hardy in the right conditions.  The shell of the pistachio is a beige color, but it is sometimes dyed red or green commercially.  Originally, dye was applied by importers to hide stains from when the seeds were picked by hand.  Today most pistachios are picked by machine.  Pistacahio nuts have been a symbol of wellnes and robust health since ancient times.  Pistachio tree are planated in orchards, and take approximately 7 to 10 years to reach significant production.  The world's largest producer of pistachios is Iran, followe4d by the U.S., Turkey and China.

History:

Pistachios were a common food as early as 6750 BC.  The pistachio was one of the trees unique to Syria which was introduced into Italy by a Roman Proconsul and at the same time to Hispania.  The modern pistachio was first cultivated in Bronze Age Central Asia.  Remains of the Atlantic pistachio and the pistachio seed along with nut cracking tool were found in ancient Israel..  Pistachios have been commercially cultivaterd more reently in maqnay parts of the English speaking world in Australia and in the U.S. in California and New Mexico where it was introduced as a garden tree in 1854. 
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My Story:

My first memory of pistachios was as a kid in Brooklyn.  They were sold in vending machines and for a penny you could turn the key and get a handful of red pistachio.  That was in the old days when pistachios were picked by hand and the red dye was added to cover up any stains on the natural beige shell.  You would eat the pistachios and your hands would be red from tahe dye.    There was a story that one of the kids in the neighborhood knew how to use a bobby pin and get his penny back and a double size portions of the nuts.  I don't know if it was true but it was a good story.  There was also a soft ice ream stand next to Nathans Famous Hot Dogs in Coney Island that had green colored pistachio flavored soft ice cream.  Delicious!

Uses of Pistachios:

The kernels are often eaten whole either fresh or roasted  and salted.  Pistachio is a popular flavoring for ice cream and is used in kulfi, spumoni,  and historically in Neopolitan ice ceam.  Pistachios are used to make pistachio butter, pistachio paste, and confections such as baklava, pistachio chocolate, halvah, lokum, or biscotti and in cold cuts such as mortadella.  Americans make pistachio salad which includes fresh pistachios or pistachio pudding whipped cream and canned fruit .  Roasted andf crushed kernels can be sprinkled over salads, desserts, sundaes and other ice cream preparations, biscuits, sweets and cakes.  Split pistachios are a great addition to vegetable or fruit salads.  Pistachiop oil extracted is one of the healthiest cooking oils.  It has a pleasant nutty aroma and possessesexcellent emollient properties.  It helps the skin protected from dryness.  It is also employed as a carrier or base oil in traditional medicines in massage therapy, aroma therapy, and in the pharmeceutical and cosmetic industries.

Nutrition:

In a 100 gram serving of pistachios they provide 562 calories and are a rich source (20% or more of  Daily Value) of protein, dietary fiber, dietary minerals and B vitamins, thiamin, and especially vitamin B6.  Pistachios are a good sourve (10 - 19% DV) of calcium, riboflavin, vitamin B5, folate, vitamin E and vitamin K.



 
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Health Benefits:

Regular consumption of pistachios (a handful a day) in the diet may help lowering total as well as LDL Cholesterol levels and increase good HDL Cholesterol  in the blood.  They compose proper amounts of monounsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid and antioxidants which can help reduce coronary artery disease and stroke risk by favoring a healthy blood lipid profile.  Pista kernels are a rich source of many antioxidant phytochemical substances such as carotenes, vitamin E and polyphenolic antioxidant compounds.  These compounds may help remove toxic free radicals from the body and protect it from diseases, cancers and infections.   Pistachios are an excellent source of vitamin E which iS a potent lipid-soluble essential for maintaining the integrity of mucosa and skin.  Vitamin E also works as a scavenger of harmful free-oxygen radicals.  Pistachios are a good source of protein helpful for before or after a workout.

Season:

Pistachios are available year round in the grocery store.  They are found shelled, whole (in the shell) roasted, salted, and sweetened or flavored. 

Selecting and Storing:

Look for unshelled (with intact outer coat) whole nuts rather than processed.  They are generally available in airtight packs and bulk bins.  Look for healthy compactuniform off-white unshelled nuts that feel heavy in hand.  They should be free from cracks other than the natural split, mold, spots and rancid smell.
Raw unshelled pistachios can be placed in a cool dry place for many months.  Shelled kernels should be placed in an airtight container and kept in the refrigerator in order to prevent them from turning rancid.

So, eat up, enjoy.  Eat some Pistachios.  They're good for you.