What are Pistachios?

N. Madison
N. Madison

Pistachios are nuts that are popularly consumed as a snack food. They are commercially grown in the United States, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Greece, and Italy. In the Unites States, about 98% of all pistachios are grown in California. There is limited commercial growth of pistachios in Arizona and New Mexico as well.

Pistachios are widely cultivated in Iran.
Pistachios are widely cultivated in Iran.

Pistachios are grown on trees and have naturally tan shells. The kernels inside the shells are a greenish tan. They get their greenish coloring from chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is a natural pigment that gives leaves their green color.

Roughly 98 percent of the pistachios grown in the United States come from California.
Roughly 98 percent of the pistachios grown in the United States come from California.

Pistachios are typically sold with the shells partly open and the kernels peeking out, making the task of separating the kernels from their shells easy. The shell actually opens on its own during the growth process. As the pistachio nut grows, it expands until it pops its shell open.

Sometimes, pistachio shells don’t open on their own. Often, this is caused by immature kernels that don’t grow properly. Such nuts should usually be discarded.

Many individuals are familiar with pistachio nuts with red shells. The red shells are the result of dyeing for aesthetic appeal, not necessity. Though some enjoy the red color, many believe the red dye adversely affects the taste of the pistachio kernels. The red dye may also stain clothes and hands.

Pistachios are not just enjoyed as a snack food; they are also used in baking and cooking. Their unique texture and coloring makes them a popular addition to salads and appetizers. They are also a frequent addition to entrees and desserts.

Pistachios are sold in many different forms. You can find them roasted, with or without salt, and raw. You can even find them coated with candy. For those who prefer to avoid dealing with the shells, pistachios can be purchased without shells.

Pistachio nuts can usually be purchased in supermarkets, produce stores, and gourmet food shops. They can also be found in candy and nut stores, as well as from a variety of online vendors. Pistachios can even be purchased from mail-order catalogs.

There are many different varieties of pistachios. However, the Kerman variety, grown mostly in California, is predominant in the United States. Pistachio trees can live for quite a long time. In fact, there are pistachio trees in the Middle East that have been thriving for more than two centuries. They are still going strong!

N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments


Pistachios have been added to the rest of the nut family, as a food that benefits the heart and arteries. Eating one to two ounces a day improves the level of cholesterol.

In a study conducted at Penn State, the participant's level of bad cholesterol was lowered by about 10 percent.

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