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February
2015
20

Pistacchio Day is Here!

Guilt free snack, the flavor of legends, delicious cuisine …

Age-old, fabled and irresistible - the Pistachio!  Apparently enjoyed in Turkey as early as 7,000 B.C., the tree, which is one of the oldest flowering nut trees and native to the Middle East, was taken to Sicily by the Arabs who once controlled this region.  The city of Bronte, located about half a mile northeast of Etna, on top of a slope of volcanic rock, is referred to as the Italian capital of the Pistachio (la frastuca in Sicilian from the Arab fustaq) and is where one percent of the world production of pistachios is produced. 

A treat for royalty, next time you nibble on a handful of Pistachios, be thankful you did not live in the times of The Queen of Sheba who it is noted decreed pistachios an exclusively royal food, forbidding commoners to grow this delicious nut for personal use; whilst Nebuchadnezzar, the ancient king of Babylon, had pistachio trees (frastucara, in Sicilian) planted in his fabled hanging gardens, and in the first century A.D. the Emperor Vitellius debuted this prized nut in his capital city of Rome. 

We may snack, however, freely and with a clear conscience! Pistachios have a high nutritional value, their protein is considered complete and they are comprised mostly of monounsaturated fat.  Their high dietary fiber content may be beneficial for regulating cholesterol levels, and whilst containing phytochemicals and other antioxidants such as carotenes, vitamin E and selenium, they possibly help scavenge tissue-damaging free radicals.  Along with thiamine and vitamin B6, pistachios contain other B vitamins that are beneficial for strong metabolism and energy production.   

These health benefits and long storage life made the Pistachio an indispensable travel item among early explorers and traders. Together with almonds, travelers frequently carried pistachios across the ancient Silk Road that connected China with the West when it was also used as a dying agent and for ailments ranging from toothaches to sclerosis of the liver.  A nut for all and all purposes!

Originally imported to the USA in the 1880’s, pistachios became a popular snack some 50 years later. The botanist, William Whitehouse played a significant part in this when he returned from Persia with 20 pounds of selected nuts, which he planted in California’s Central Valley.  Being a slow growing tree it was almost a decade before he ascertained what he had gathered, and realized that only one of the nuts he had brought over was useful.   Whitehouse named the tree “Kerman” after the famous carpet-making city near Rafsanjan.  Thus began the “Californian Pistachio Miracle.”   Today California boasts 40,500 hectares of pistachio orchards, which produce an annual output of 200,000 tons of pistachios.  With ninety eight percent of the world supply of pistachios being consumed in the United States, it is no wonder this nutty miracle has been awarded its own day! 

Join us on February 26th as we celebrate the journey of the Pistachio from the Middle East and Sicily to America on National Pistachio Day, with our Chef’s scrumptious creation of Crispy Pistachio Crusted Sea bass.

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