The Green Nut: A brief history of the Pistachio
‘Put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man as a gift … some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds’ Genesis 43:11
Growing for over 9000 years, the pistachio has never lost its mystique or sense of nobility, appearing again and again in ancient texts such as the Bible as an indicator of respect. They are even believed to have grown in the Garden of Eden, and were one of the foods Adam and Eve took with them out into the world.
Having been eaten in the Middle East since time immemorial, these little green seeds are as much a symbol of the region as the Olive or the chickpea, yet it is their connection to royalty that really sets them apart. Once coveted by nobility in the ancient world, sent as gifts between Emperors and grown in the hanging gardens of Babylon - their status as the nut of the upper classes has made them the cause of desire, and conflict, for millennia.
One of the most famous myths around the Pistachio is that of the Queen of Sheba, the legendary monarch of Southern Arabia and Abyssinia (modern day Yemen and Ethiopia).
With a name that is synonymous with wealth and luxury, it is unsurprising that she was a fan of the finer things the ancient middle east had to offer. Legend goes that the Queen of Sheba made a royal decree stating that pistachios were forbidden to all but the royal family, and that any commoner found growing a pistachio tree was to be punished for sullying the reputation of this exalted nut.
As much as the greedy Queen wanted to keep them to herself, pistachios managed to make their way out of the Middle East over time.