Saudi Aramco World: November/December 2013 - page 6

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Saudi Aramco World
Humans have enjoyed pistachios for perhaps 9000 years. The Bible
mentions them in Genesis (43:11). Archeological excavations at
Jarmo, in northeastern Iraq, provide evidence that the nuts were
collected from the wild and eaten as early as 6750
BCE
. Ever since,
they have been an important food source and often a delicacy in
the Middle East and Mediterranean, and as a result, the trees have
been widely planted and cultivated for millennia. In Greece, pista-
chios were introduced in the fourth century
BCE
following the cam-
paigns of Alexander the Great. In the first century
CE
, during the
rule of the emperor Tiberius, the nut was brought to Italy. The
spread of Islam, along with the Crusades and the Venetian sea
trade with Syria, helped further expand the cultivation and culinary
popularity of pistachios in the Mediterranean basin and Europe.
The cultivated, nut-bearing pistachio tree,
Pistachia vera
, is
a member of the Anacardiaceae, the cashew family, which also
includes sumac, poison oak, poison ivy and mango. Pistachios need
long, hot, dry summers and root-chilling cold winters, and they
are dioecious, meaning there are male trees that produce the pollen
By 2013, the Kerman had created a billion-dollar agricultural industry, and what was
once a delicacy was a long way toward becoming a common household snack.
University of California pistachio specialist Louise Ferguson calls theCaliforniaKerman
pistachio tree “the single most successful plant introduction of the 20th century.”
THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
WANTED TO SEE HOW THESE KERMAN TREES
MIGHT PERFORM IN THE RICHLY FERTILE
CENTRAL VALLEY OF CALIFORNIA.
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