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What Is a Turkish Pistachio?

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  • Written By: Christian Petersen
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 02 September 2016
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A Turkish pistachio is a variety of the pistachio nut, originating in Turkey and cultivated there and in other regions of the world. Turkey is a major producer of pistachios, ranking third in worldwide production after Iran and the United States. The Turkish pistachio is similar to the Iranian, or Persian, pistachio, which is considered to be the finest of all pistachio varieties. Like the Iranian pistachio, the Turkish pistachio nut is slightly smaller than other varieties but has superior flavor. These pistachios are also known as Antep pistachios, after the the Turkish name for pistachio, which translates into English as "Antep nut".

Most pistachios grown for human consumption are of the Pistacia vera species. While there are other species in the Pistacia genus, they are not the common pistachio nut, although some are similar and are eaten by humans as well as livestock. Often, these other species are used as rootstock for growing pistachios, onto which Pistacia vera cuttings are grafted. Two other species in particular, Pistacia atlantica and Pistacia terebinthus are used for this purpose. This creates a tree with the superior qualities of the rootstock species and the more desirable crop characteristics of the Turkish pistachio.

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As it is native to regions that have some of the oldest and longest histories of agriculture, the Turkish pistachio has been cultivated for thousands of years. While other species of pistachio are used for rootstocks, there are also various cultivars of pistachios. These are all members of the same species, but vary slightly. The pistachios grown in the United States produce slightly larger nuts. A Turkish pistachio also tends to be a little harder to open than other varieties because the shell, which is more slender and elongated as well as very hard, does not open as much as other types do when dried and roasted.

The flavor of the Turkish pistachio is widely regarded as being superior to other varieties, except perhaps the Iranian pistachio, and are significantly more expensive than the larger varieties grown in the United States. It is the sweetest and most robustly flavored of all pistachio varieties, a characteristic which is enhanced by roasting. This makes the Turkish pistachio particularly well suited to all kinds of culinary uses, especially desserts and pistachio butter, a product much like peanut butter. Like all pistachios, the Turkish pistachio is considered to be a very healthy food, with no cholesterol, high protein content, and no saturated fats.

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