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pierre laszlo

 
Pistacia vera L. (Anacardiaceae)

One ought to pay attention to every feature in daily life, to even the most menial act. I have in mind the snacks one might enjoy gobbling up during the Happy Hour. In so doing, we celebrate antique rituals, we pay homage to human history not to mention the participating in the brotherhood of mankind.
Take pistachio nuts for instance. Why is it difficult to stop peeling them from their little shells and to eat them, one after the other? Do they enter an implicit competition as to which will be the tastiest?
But, first, where do they come from? Where do they grow? The pistachio tree is truly a large shrub, only 3-8 m tall. It originates in dry lands around the Mediterranean. Botanists tell us that it has a middle-oriental birthplace, in Syria to be more accurate. But it has been brought, for cultivation, to other parts of the world. The Central Valley of California pro-bably today has the greatest number under cultivation, the other main producing country is currently Iran.
Leaves fall during winter, they are made of three to five leaflets, and the flowers bloom in late spring from April to June. Their fertilization is a pre-requisite to fructification since the plant is dioecious.
What this technical adjective simply means is that the sexes are separate. Fertilization de-mands coexistence of both sexes in close proximity, and synchronization of their coming to maturity. 
This was learned from experience. The first European pistachio trees were brought back in 1702, not from the Middle East but from the Far East (China), by the French botanist Jo-seph Pitton de Tournefort (1656-1708). He planted them in Jardin du Roi, the future Muséum national d’histoire naturelle. One of the trees he planted indeed is still alive. Another French botanist, Sébastien Vaillant (1669-1722), became bothered in 1718 that the pistachio tree in Jardin du Roi never bore fruit even though it displayed abundant flowers every spring.  He knew of another pistachio tree, elsewhere in Paris, albeit with different flowers. He decided to help them mate: when he brought a branch of the male pistachio from Jardin du Roi next to the female pistachio, there was love at first sight: the never before witnessed fruit appeared afterwards.
This historical public experiment showed to Europeans that plants also enjoyed sex. Even though the event took place long before the Victorian Era, the Parisian catholic clergy was not amused.