Today’s holiday honors a food that appears to be smiling back at us: the pistachio. Aww. I almost feel guilty eating the poor little fella.
Key word: “almost.”
Pistachios have been around since at least 6750 BC. They grow on trees and are related to mangoes, sumac, and poison ivy…so if you’re itching for a handful of pistachios, now you know why! They are native to the Middle East, and are believed to have grown in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Like almonds, pistachios are the seed of a fruit rather than a genuine nut, like Charlie Sheen. Pistachio trees were introduced to the U.S. in 1854, and grown commercially beginning in the early 20th century.
In the Middle East, pistachios are referred to as “the smiling nut” and in Iran they are called “the happy nut.” In America, those nicknames belong to Lindsey Lohan and Gary Busey, accordingly. (These “crazy celebrity” jokes never get old!). They are very healthy for you (the nuts, not the celebrities), containing more antioxidants per serving than green tea. They are a great source of fiber, copper, manganese, and vitamin B6. The shells are recyclable, too: you can use them as kindling with crumpled paper to start a fire, line the bottom of houseplant pots with them to provide drainage and soil retention, and use them as mulch for plants and shrubs. The shells are sometimes dyed red or green because holiday colors are festive and pretty!! Actually, it was to hide the stains from the grubby farmhands who used to pick the fruit by hand, but nowadays pistachios are machine-harvested, so dyeing is rarely performed anymore.
For today’s challenge, we wanted to do a little bit more than just open a bag of pistachios and eat a handful. So, we opened a bag of pistachios and ate a handful…AND we made pistachio-flavored instant pudding. Double pistachio whammy, people!