Friday, February 27, 2009

Nuts For Pistachios!

(The pistachio, on the tree, just before harvest)
Awww…..nuts! I cannot believe that “February Foodie Love Month” is just about over. But, what better way to bid a fond farewell to February than with a salute to National Pistachio Day, February 26, which was actually yesterday.

The “Pistachio” is a small tree which is mainly seen in the mountain regions of Iran, Turkmenistan, and western Afghanistan. This tree was first cultivated in western Asia. It has a hard shell which is removed. The kernels are eaten whole and can be eaten either fresh or roasted and are also used in ice creams and many indulgent confections. Pistachios help in lowering the risk of heart disease.

Pistachios from Turkey are smaller and less open than California-grown pistachios and have darker shells, but they feature a richer, more distinctive taste. Turkish pistachios are left to dry with their outer husks on, which darkens the shells but protects the flavor. Consequently, many pistachio aficionados think Turkish pistachios are better-tasting than any other variety, including Iranian. And the best pistachios in Turkey come from the area around the city of Gaziantep, not far from the Syrian border, and are thus named Antep pistachios.

So….why the focus on Turkish pistachios when there are so many other varieties of fabulous pistachios? Well…I owe my “development” to both my mother and the nutritional integrity of this nut.

At the time my mother was expecting me, she, the wife of an Air Force man (my dad), found herself a young woman living off base in a tiny apartment in Yalova, Turkey. During her pregnancy, my mother and a fellow military wife, Nancy, wiled away the hours camped out on her apartment balcony drinking Chai tea – not the Starbucks kind, I am sure – and eating Turkish pistachios by the pound while studying the Turkish woman who lived in the house below the building. This woman spent her afternoons practicing the ritual of hand washing her laundry in her metal wash basin - outside. Better than reality TV for Mom and Nancy, that woman – and those Turkish pistachios - seemed to somehow make these young women forget that they were military wives living in a foreign country thousands of miles from home.

Forty-one years later, I still cannot get enough of pistachios…Turkish or otherwise….and I guess I owe it all to Mom, Nancy, and that Turkish laundress. Here’s to National Pistachio Day (a day late) and the end of February Foodie Love Month. Hope you enjoyed it. Until my next entry in March, I remain….1SweetMama

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