By Ibrahim Alalou --
A cluster of unripe pistachios on one of my trees
The pistachio tree(Pistacia vera) is native to Syria. In Arabic we call it Aleppo pistachio(الفستق الحلبي). It has a rich history. Pliny the Elder wrote in his Natural History that Pistacia was unique to Syria and was introduced to Italy in 35 AD by Lucius Vitellius the Elder,the Roman Proconsul in Syria.
Why I planted pistachio trees?
Well pistachio are desert plants so it is well adapted to my semi-desert part of the country.When I decided to start my farm it was my first choice.
Again pistachio trees tolerate salinity well of which I had a lot. It can survive saline water with 3000 ppm of soluble salts(what a coincidence when I made a Lab analysis of a water sample of my well and the result was 2900 ppm).
What about temperature fluctuations?
It is reported to bear — 10 C(14 F) in the winter and 48 C(118 F) in the summer. At my farm I witnessed — 12 C in the winter and 45 C in the summer.
It is a sun loving tree. I got a very sunny location. So the plan was made and in 1995 I planted my first pistachio tree.
One of my pistachio trees in flowering
It tolerates drought well due to its extensive root system and the leaves which are deciduos pinnate leaves with a glossy shine on the outside. It may grow o 10 meters in height.
I planted my trees with a 8 meters by 8 meters spacing and since they are dioecious(separate male and female trees) I put one male tree for every 10 female trees.
Note the fruits(drupes) which contains the elongated seeds in mid-season.
At the nursery the seeds are planted and in the second year they are grafted with the right male or female cultivar the most famous in Syria is the Red Aleppo cultivar.
Upon ripening the fruit would have a hard creamish exterior shell.
over the seed there is mostly a red soft skin.
The green flesh is the ultimate prize with a very distinctive flavor.
Lovely looking pistachios.hard work finally paid at my farm.
The trees are slow to bear taking 10 years for the first crop. As you know slow growing trees are slow to fruit but the reward is in their longevity. Pistachio trees can live for hundred of years and can keep fruiting for 200 years . The eldest trees were reported at a Syrian location called Ain Alteena that are 1800 years old. Wow that is what I call longevity.