How many varieties of pistachios are there?

How many varieties of pistachios are there?

Pistachio cultivation is very ancient: archaeological findings have shown that it has been used in Turkey since the seventh millennium BC, but the plant originated in Syria. Pistachios are also mentioned in the Bible, where it is said that Jacob sent various fruits as a tribute to Pharaoh, including pistachios.

The pistachio plant thrives in areas where winters are cool and summers are long and hot. It resists drought well and is not afraid of high summer temperatures, but cannot tolerate excessive humidity.

It is precisely because of these characteristics that the pistachio tree has adapted well to the Italian climate, where it was introduced around 30 AD, from where it spread first to Spain and then gradually to China, Caucasian Russia and, for about a century, to the United States of America.

Pistachios are sold both shelled and in shell, in their natural state or roasted and salted, chopped or as a cream for use in a variety of recipes. They are part of the traditional cuisine of many regions, especially in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including Italy, where pistachios are used in both sweet and savoury preparations, and Turkey, where they are the main ingredient in baklava, a typical sweet made with phyllo dough, honey and pistachios.

The main producer of pistachios is undoubtedly Iran, which alone accounts for about half the world's production, followed by the United States (which accounts for about 20% of the market) and then Turkey, China, Syria, Greece, Italy, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

Lately, a new reality is growing in the pistachio world, destined to play an important role thanks to its volumes and particular calibre: the colossal calibre of the Spanish pistachio.

This crop was born in Spain in the early 2000s and has met with favour among farmers because it adapts very well to the semi-arid climate of central regions, requires little water and minimal management.

Below is an overview of the main varieties of pistachios found on the market with a brief focus on Italy which, despite not being on the podium of the largest pistachio producers, boasts an excellence that has earned PDO certification and Slow Food presidium, the Bronte pistachio.

Pistachio from Spain

In Castilla la Mancha, thanks to the particular climate of the central plateau (600-700m above sea level), with very little humidity, often windy and practically no half seasons, the Spanish pistachio grows. Its characteristic is its intense flavour due to the wide temperature range between day and night.

In this region of Spain, the variety with the highest existing size of 16/17 grows in particular: the Colossal variety pistachio.

The role of Spain in the world of pistachios is destined to become important: volumes are growing, the product has an excellent flavour and the greater proximity ensures less environmental impact than the main origins.

Pistachio from Iran

Different varieties of pistachios are grown in Iran: Ohadi, Jandaghi, Harati, Ebrahimabadi and many others.

Although there are many different varieties of pistachios, actually on a practical, and commercial level, the only real distinction that is made is between:

  • Rounded or round varieties: to this category belong, for example, the Ohadi, Kaleh Ghouchi and Jandaghi varieties;
  • Elongated or long varieties: to which most Iranian varieties belong. Among the long varieties, Akbari is certainly the most widespread and well-known, but there are also many others, including Harati, Ebrahimi, Ebrahimabadi, Hassanzadeh, Karimabadi, Fadoghi-Ghafuri, Momtaz and Ahmad Aghaie.

Pistachio from California

As in Iran, several varieties of pistachios are cultivated in California. Here are the most relevant:

  • Kerman: Introduced in 1957, this cultivar is the most prized and widespread in California. The plant is vigorous and flowers around mid-September. The seed yield is high and the kernel is very light;
  • Red Aleppo: very productive variety with large, rounded fruit, harvested at the end of August/beginning of September;
  • Sfax: characterised by dense clusters of pistachios and small seeds of excellent quality.
  • Trabonella: a vigorous plant that produces small, green seeds that ripen in mid-September.

Pistachio from Turkey

Pistachio cultivation in Turkey is mainly concentrated in the South/Southeast regions.

The characteristics of the main pistachio varieties grown in Turkey are as follows:

  • Uzun: medium-sized, oval-shaped fruit, thin shell, light green seed;
  • Kirmizi: medium-sized, oval-shaped fruit with a red pericarp and medium-sized green seed;
  • Abiad Miwhy: medium sized fruit and very good tasting seed;
  • Achouri: large light red fruit and large seed;
  • Aintaby: small and flattened fruit;
  • Ayimi: medium sized, dark red fruit;
  • El-Batoury: large whitish fruit;
  • El-Jalale: small and elongated fruit, reddish white in colour.

Pistachio from Italy

Italian pistachio production takes place almost entirely in Sicily, where the most suitable areas are located in the provinces of Catania, Agrigento and Caltanissetta.

The most famous and prized variety is certainly the famous Bronte green pistachio PDO, the green gold of Sicily. This variety, which takes its name from the town of Bronte on the slopes of Mount Etna, is characterised by a large, early-blooming plant that finds the ideal climate and soil for growing in the Etna area. The fruit is harvested at the end of August/beginning of September and, unfortunately, because of the difficult characteristics of the lava soil, it has always been impossible to introduce any kind of mechanisation into the harvesting phase, thus not allowing the production costs to be lowered, which makes the Bronte pistachio a very expensive raw material. This variety was also introduced in the United States, in California, at the beginning of the 20th century.

Apart from the Bronte pistachio, the other varieties of pistachios grown in Italy are only a few and strongly characterised:

  • Bianca (or Napoletana);
  • Cerasola;
  • Insolia;
  • Silvana.

Discover on our pistachio varieties.


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