Contrary to what most of us assume, pistachios are not technically nuts but seeds—they grow in bunches on trees. Pistachio trees, native to the Middle East, were introduced to the Mediterranean before being planted in the United States in the mid-1800s. Iran is the world’s largest producer of pistachios, with California coming in second—quite a feat considering the state didn’t harvest its first commercial crop until 1976.
One ounce of pistachios (about 49 nuts) has 3 grams of fiber and is an excellent source of copper and vitamin B6 (20% dv) and a good source of manganese, phosphorus and thiamin. Research suggests that lutein, an antioxidant in pistachios, helps protect “bad” LDL cholesterol from oxidization by free radicals. (Oxidized LDL contributes to the development of plaque in arteries.)
Find pistachios in and out of their shells, roasted and/or salted, at most supermarkets and natural-foods stores.
Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 months or freeze for up to 6 months.
The Queen of Sheba considered pistachios to be an aphrodisiac and ordered all pistachios grown in her kingdom to be given to her and her court.