The pistachio tree is native to western Asia and Asia Minor, from Syria to the Caucasus and Afghanistan. Archaeological evidence in Turkey indicate the nuts were being used for food as early as 7,000 B.C. The pistachio was introduced to Italy from Syria early in the first century A.D. Subsequently its cultivation spread to other Mediterranean countries.
The tree was first introduced into the United States in 1854 by Charles Mason, who distributed seed for experimental plantings in California, Texas and some southern states. In 1875 a few small pistachio trees, imported from France were planted in Sonoma, Calif. In the early 1900's the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture assembled a collection of Pistacia species and pistachio nut varieties at the Plant Introduction Station in Chico, Calif. Commercial production of pistachio nuts began in the late 1970's and rapidly expanded to a major operation in the San Joaquin Valley. Other major pistachio producing areas are Iran and Turkey and to a lesser extent, Syria, India, Greece, Pakistan and elsewhere.
Many varieties of pistachio have been developed, because the crop has been grown for several thousands of years. In California some 13 cultivars have been tested, including Kerman, Ibrahmim, Owhadi, Safeed, Shasti and Wahedi (largest nuts of any cultivar). The first nut bearing cultivars tested at Chico, Calif. were Bronte, Buenzle, Minassian, Red Aleppo, Sfax and Trabonella. Kerman is liked by importers and processors for its size, crispness and snap when eaten. A sister seedling of Kerman, Lassen, also produces good quality large-sized nuts. The standard male cultivar is Peters. The Kerman and Peters cultivars are more fully described below.
Female. Nut above average in size. Shells split well, are easily opened by hand. Kernel size above average, of high quality, readily shaken or knocked from tree when ripe. Tree vigorous, upright-spreading. Blooms late, produces heavily but biennially. By far the leading commercial cultivar in the U.S. Originated in Chico, Calif. from seeds imported from Iran.
Male. Good producer of pollen, its blossoming coinciding with early blossoming cultivars, as well as the later blooming Kerman. Has a tendency to be a loppy, weak grower, especially when propagated on P. vera roots. Originated in Fresno, Calif. by A. B. Peters.
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