Go Nuts for Pistachios

Pistachios

They say violence lurks within each of us, and here’s a food that proves it. When the bowl of discarded shells is almost full and the bowl of pistachio nuts nearly empty, there’s bound to be a straggler whose shell—unlike those of its mates—is locked up tight as Fort Knox. Do we comport ourselves with dignity? We do not! We want that last delectable green morsel that hides tauntingly inside, and we mean to have it—whether it takes teeth, shoe leather or a ball-peen hammer.

Happily, our cause is just. This natural snack food is chock full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and protein; it’s one addiction that—within reasonable snacking limits—you can feel just fine about indulging.

Power Up

A 1-ounce serving of pistachios (about 50 unshelled nuts) provides 12 percent of the U.S.D.A. daily requirements of both fiber and protein. Pistachios are free of artery-clogging trans fats and high in monounsaturated fats, which can lower your risk of heart attack and stroke by reducing “bad” cholesterol. They’re rich in vitamin E, which promotes healthy skin; potassium, which lowers blood pressure and helps regulate heart rhythm; and copper, which helps increase the iron in your blood and fuel your metabolism. And according to a study in the journal Nutrition in 2013, pistachios have antioxidants that can cut your risk of cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes and improve your immune system and eyesight.

Did You Know

Money doesn’t grow on trees, but pistachios do; the pistachio tree traces its roots—so to speak—to western and central Asia, where archaeologists have found evidence of them as far back as 7000 B.C. around 700 B.C., pistachio trees are said to have grown in the hanging Gardens of Babylon.

Pistachios spread to Europe in the Middle Ages during the Crusades, and immigrants from the Middle East brought them to the U.S. in the 1880s. Iran is the world’s top producer, trailed by the U.S. and Turkey. The nuts have surged in popularity in recent years; they’re sold in supermarkets, convenience stores and sometimes even ballparks.

Buy/Store/Serve

If you buy them unshelled, choose nuts with partially open shells, a signal that the nut has reached maximum ripeness and flavor. Out of the shell, pistachios should be bright green, indicating peak ripeness. At room temperature they may keep for months in the winter but can turn rancid within days in hot, humid weather.

To prevent spoilage, store pistachios in an airtight container in the fridge. Eat them within two to three months. Pistachios can be shelled and frozen in a heavy-duty freezer bag; when you’re ready to enjoy them, grab a handful and put them in a plastic bag to protect them from condensation—they’ll thaw fairly quickly. But don’t wait too long to eat them; even frozen pistachios can go bad after about a year.

Pistachios also add pizzazz to recipes. Simply toss them into salads, or add them to your favorite rice and pasta dishes. (Try pistachios and pesto over pasta.) Mix coarsely chopped pistachios with bread crumbs, olive oil, honey and dijon mustard to make a savory chicken crusting. —Pete Kelly

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