Pistachio, Pistacia vera

tree and shrub of the family Anacardiaceae
(Cotinus, Peruvian Pepper tree, Mango tree, Pistachio, Sumac)

Etymology: from Greek pistake, or Persian origin.
Origin: Middle East. There is a Chinese variety.
Habitat: places dry and sheltered.
Hardiness: zone 7 (it supports cold until -17 °C or 1 °F).
Height: shrub of 6 m (Chinese Pistachio is a tree of 25 m in China).
Shape: thick crown due to the breadth of its branching.

Two species are met:

  • Pistachio mastic (Pistacia vera or Pistacia lentiscus): persistent leaves, paripinnate, formed by pointed leaflets, first like cotton-wool, then tough, what allows them to resist dehydration better in arid places (to the left).
  • Pistachio terebinth: deciduous leaves, imparipinnate.

Species dioecious used by Sebastian Vaillant at the beginning of the XVIIIth century to prove the principle of the pollination. Jussieu and Linné took back the theories. This tree always exists in the Garden of the Plants of Paris. The female flowers form catkins which gather in cymes. For the pollination, a male plant is enough for 5 - 6 female plants. Fruits are drupes, the size of a hazelnut, with woody bark and which crack naturally. They contain a green seed lengthened in the form of almond, covered with a pinkish reddish-brown film. This one, rich in oil and in starch, is used as an accompaniment of aperitif

Uses: the variety of Mediterranean produces the pistachio (seed of the fruit), while the variety of China has a small fruit, inedible. The trunk of Pistachio terebinth exudes a resin which enters the composition of varnish, or which is used, after distillation, for jams or pastilles. The resin of Pistachio mastic was called mastic of Chios in the XIXth century:
"In Ottoman Empire, Turkish, Greek, Armenian and Jewish women
chew with delight this fragrant cream, especially in the morning; it becomes soft,
perfume breath, strengthen gums and whiten teeth. It is burnt
in small ovenproof dishes to perfume flats, it is blended with paste and
a nice bread" is made. (Larousse)


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