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The seed of the pistachio tree, a deciduous tree native to Asia that yields fruits twice a year. Pistachio nuts were introduced into the Mediterranean region in the 1st century B.C. A relative of the cashew, the pistachio tree can attain 16 to 32 feet in height and grows best in hot, dry climates, particularly at high altitudes. More drought-resistant than any other fruit tree, the pistachio is also extremely frost-resistant. In its natural habitat, the pistachio tree has a life span of over 150 years. The pistachio tree grows wild in the mountainous regions of Russia and Turkistan (central Asia) and is cultivated in most countries of central Asia and near the east, in the Mediterranean region of Europe, and in the United States, especially in California, where it was introduced in the 1890's. Turkey, Iran, Palestine, and Syria are important producers of pistachio nuts today.

Pistachios grow in clusters and are harvested by hand or by machines that shake the nuts from the trees, allowing for them to be gathered from the ground. After harvesting, the nuts are soaked in order to rid them of their fleshy reddish or yellowish shell. The pistachio nuts are then dried in the sun. The greenish kernel or the pistachio nut is small and round and has a delicately sweet taste. It is covered with a fine brownish skin and encased in a thin, fairly hard shell that splits open along its lengthwise seam when the fruit is ripe.