|Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture|
Pistacia (derived indirectly from ancient Persian pista). Anacardiaceae. Trees or shrubs which exude turpentine or mastic. One species of the genus, P. vera, produces the pistachio-nute or pistache of commerce which are used in confectionery and flavoring, and some of the other species are used for ornamental planting and as stock on which to graft the commercial species.
Leaves alternate, evergreen or deciduous, 3-lvd. or even- or uneven-pinnate: infl. paniculate or axillary, racemose; fls. small, dioecious and without petals; males with 5-divided or -parted calyx and 5 stamens; females with 3-4-divided or -parted calyx, short 3- divided style and 1-celled ovary: fr. a dry drupe.— About 20 species, Medit. region to Asia, with one species from the Canaries, and one from Mex., which has also been found in Calif. The so-called nut of Pistacia is really the seed or kernel of a dry drupe. The seed is green, and has a highly peculiar flavor. P. Terebinthus exudes from its st. the fragrant Cyprian or Scio-tur- pentine used in medicine as early as the time of Hippocrates.
Cultivation of the pistachio, or pistache. (G. P. Rixford.) Several species of Pistacia, P. vera, P. atlantica, P. Lentiscus, P. mutica, P. Terebinthus, P. chinensis, P. mexicana, P. integerrima, and P. verestina, a hybrid, have been introduced into this country by the Office of Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction of the United States Department of Agriculture and are being tested as stocks upon which to work the best varieties of P. vera. The cultivated species of pistache is indigenous to Asia Minor, Syria, and Palestine. It was first brought to Rome, according to Pliny, by Vitellius, then governor of Syria, during the reign of Tiberius early in the first century of the Christian era and was then carried to Spain by Flavius Pompeius. The first introduction into the United States dates from an importation of nuts by the Federal Patent Office in 1853-1854. These nuts were widely distributed throughout the middle and southern states but do not seem to have attracted much attention until trees were introduced into California by the writer, from southern France in 1876, and subsequently by the United States Department of Agriculture at various times up to the present.
The best named varieties, a half-dozen in number, have been imported from Syria, Sicily, and other Mediterranean countries and have been extensively propagated at the Government stations, chiefly at Chico, California. During the past seven or eight years, budded trees of the named varieties and seedlings of various species to the extent of 25,000 or 30,000 have been distributed to sections of the southwestern states, chiefly California. The best nuts in market are from the island of Sicily, where wild Terebinthus trees are thinned out and grafted with P. vera cions.
In this country, the tree is propagated by either budding or grafting. In nursery rows the stocks are budded when one year old. One experienced nurseryman has best success by the use of dormant buds from old wood inserted in April or May when the bark peels freely. He sometimes takes buds in winter and keeps them in cold storage until ready for use. All the species mentioned above are successfully used for stocks, some, however, give the preference to P. Terebinthus, P. vera, P. mutica, and P. atlantica. The trees may be worked either in nursery or in the orchard when the seedlings are well established. In planting the orchard, it is best to put out trees one year from the bud or one or two years from the seed, as the tap-root is large and young trees are most successfully moved.
It is suggested that one form of the commonly cultivated pepper tree, Schinus terebinthifolius, is so closely related to the pistache that it may be used as a stock for P. vera. The vigor, hardiness, and rapid growth of P. chinensis seemed to indicate it as an ideal stock upon which to work P. vera; but the growth of the bud the first year was a disappointment, as when it began to grow the stock in most cases stopped, resulting, at the end of the season, in a top-heavy tree, frequently 3/4 inch above and 1/2 inch below the union. However, the second or third year, the stock overtakes the bud, so that the only precaution required is to stake the tree the first year or two.
The pistache is a dry-climate tree, somewhat hardier than the fig and olive. When once established in good deep soil, little irrigation is required. It flourishes in the southwestern states wherever the climate permits the growth of the olive. The trees are planted 25 feet apart, and one male to six or seven females must be put out as pollinizers. The males of P. vera blossom first and in some countries these flowers are gathered and preserved in a dry place until the female flowers open; the pollen is then dusted over them. Sometimes twigs of staminate flowers are cut from the tree and pushed into pots of moist earth where they will keep fresh a few days until the pistillate flowers open. P. atlantica male flowers open earlier than the female flowers of P. vera and have served as good pollinizers for the latter. In that case, of course, the seeds of such crosses, if planted, would produce hybrid trees. Sometimes the male cions are grafted into female trees. The male trees are invariably larger and more vigorous than the females.
The grafts begin to bear the fourth year, and at the age of eight to ten years, with good care, should yield twenty-five to one hundred pounds of nuts in the shell, of which it takes three pounds to make one of shelled kernels, in which form most of them are imported. There are seedling trees in California eight and nine years of age which are producing annually twenty to
twenty-five pounds of nuts. It is the highest-priced nut in our markets, selling at wholesale from 35 to 75 cents a pound. It is a curious fact, not mentioned by botanists, that the shells grow to about normal size and remain empty if not pollinized. After pollination the ovule rapidly expands and fills the shell.
In central California, seeds are planted in March. The seeds should be soaked over night in lye-water made with a can of lye to twenty gallons of water; then put into a coarse sieve and rub with a piece of burlap to remoye the pulp. If this is not done, the seeds will be long in germinating. Plant in good soil in house or hotbed. The pistache nut is greatly appreciated in the countries bordering on the Mediterranean, especially in Syria, where it is extensively used, as is the almond and walnut in this country. In Syria it always forms an important ingredient of all wedding feasts. The parting guest after a social call is always provided with a bag of nuts. At present, in this country, owing to the high price, its use is restricted to confectioners who use it for coloring and flavoring. When processed as are salted almonds, but in the shell, they are widely liked. The dehiscent shell is penetrated by the salt-water, while the crack facilitates the opening by the fingernails It is not presumed that growing the nuts will become an important industry; still, as the tree is a good bearer and thrives in hot arid regions where the filbert and walnut cannot be grown, it will probably have a place in nut-production not now occupied by other species It is not segregated by the customs authorities from other nuts, but dealers estimate the annual importations into the United States at a value of $250,000.
The cultivated species of Pistacia. CH
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Pests and diseases
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Pistacia atlantica - Betoum
Pistacia chinensis - Chinese Pistache
Pistacia lentiscus - Mastic or Lentisco
Pistacia mexicana - Mexican Pistache
Pistacia terebinthus - Terebinth
Pistacia texana - Texas Pistache
Pistacia vera - Pistachio
- Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture, by L. H. Bailey, MacMillan Co., 1963