Archeologists have found evidence from excavations at Jarmo in northeastern Iraq . that pistachio seeds were a common food as early as 6750 BC.The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were said to have contained pistachio trees during the reign of King Merodach-Baladan about 700 BC.The modern pistachio P. vera was first cultivated in Western Asia, where it has long been an important crop in cooler parts of Iran and Iraq. It appears in Dioscurides as pistakia πιστάκια, recognizable as P. vera by its comparison to pine nuts. Its cultivation spread into the Mediterranean world by way of Persia from Syria.
Additionally, remains of the Atlantic pistachio and pistachio seed along with nut-cracking tools were discovered by archaeologists at the Gesher Benot Ya'aqov site in Israel's Hula Valley, dated to 780,000 years ago.
Pliny in his Natural History asserts that pistacia, “well known among us,” was one of the trees unique to Syria, and that the seed was introduced into Italy by the Roman consul in Syria, Lucius Vitellius the Elder (consul in Syria in 35 AD) and into Hispania at the same time by Flaccus Pompeius.The early sixth-century manuscript De observatione ciborum (“On the observance of foods”) by Anthimus implies that pistacia remained well known in Europe in Late Antiquity. The pistachio is one of three seeds mentioned in the Bible. The pistachio is mentioned once, in Genesis 43:11, as is the walnut in Song of Songs 6:11, while the almond is mentioned many times.
More recently, the pistachio has been cultivated commercially in the English-speaking world, in Australia, and in New Mexico and California, of the United States, where it was introduced in 1854 as a garden tree.David Fairchild of the United States Department of Agriculture introduced hardier cultivars collected in China to California in 1904 and 1905, but it was not promoted as a commercial crop until 1929.Walter T. Swingle’s pistachios from Syria had already fruited well at Niles by 1917.
The earliest records of pistachio in English are around roughly year 1400, with the spellings “pistace” and “pistacia”. The word pistachio comes from medieval Italian pistacchio, which is from classical Latin pistacium, which is from ancient Greek pistákion and pistákē, which is generally believed to be from Middle Persian, although unattested in Middle Persian. Later in Persian, the word is attested in Persian as pista. As mentioned, the tree came to the ancient Greeks from Western Asia.