Pistachios have a very long and illustrious history, with many believing that they were one of the foods that Adam brought to earth and grew in the Garden of Eden.
“If it must be so, then do this: take some of the best products of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man as a present, a little balm and a little honey, aromatic gum and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds.” - Genesis 43:11.
Whether true or not, what is known is that the pistachio is native to the Middle East, and is one of the oldest nut trees in the world, with archaeological evidence from Turkey showing that humans have been eating pistachios from as early as 7000 B.C!
Nowadays, anyone can crack open a tasty pistachio shell and enjoy the goodness within. Still, legend has it that this has not always been the case, and the pistachio nut may just have a much more regal history.
Pistachios - the food of royalty
Pistachios have been associated with many powerful and aristocratic people over the years.
Legend has it that the Queen of Sheeba loved to eat pistachios so much that she declared them a royal food, banning commoners and farmers from harvesting them for their own consumption.
Nebuchadnezzar, the ancient king of Babylon, also favoured the pistachio nut, and had a whole grove of pistachio trees planted in his famous hanging gardens so that he could feast on them at his leisure.
From the Middle East, pistachios were then transported far and wide by explorers and traders who snacked on them for energy and sustenance throughout their travels - eventually being transported across the ancient Silk Road that connected China to the West.
Many miles from their origin in the Middle East, the pistachio was still regarded as a luxury food in the Roman capital and was enjoyed by many emperors and used in banquet worthy Roman dishes such as pistachio nut tarts.
Today, although the pistachio can now be eaten by anyone, the nut has retained its aristocratic reputation. So the next time that you tuck into one, take a moment to consider that you are enjoying the same nut as some of the world’s most illustrious royalty.
Fancy making a Roman nut tart for yourself?
This Roman nut tart recipe comes from the famous Apicius Manuscript, which contained a number of historical recipes and was compiled in the first century AD. With sheep’s milk, dessert wine, and pepper, we have to say; it’s unlike any nut tart recipe that we’ve seen before. Before you tackle into this, check up on Where To Buy Quality Pistachios.
To make the tart you will need:
- 400g crushed nuts—almonds, walnuts or pistachios
- 200g pine nuts
- 100g honey
- 100ml dessert wine
- 4 eggs
- 100ml full-fat sheep's milk
- 1 teaspoon of salt or garum
- Preheat your oven to 240°C/475°F/Gas 9.
- Roast your chopped nuts and whole pine nuts until they have turned golden.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6.
- Mix honey and the wine in a pan and bring to the boil, then cook until the wine has evaporated and the liquid has thickened.
- Add the roasted nuts and pine nuts to the honey and leave the mixture to cool.
- Meanwhile, beat the eggs and milk together with the salt or garum and pepper.
- Next, stir the honey and nut mixture into the eggs.
- Oil an oven dish to stop sticking and then pour in your nut mixture.
- Seal the tin with silver foil and place it in a roasting tin filled about one-third deep with water (this will help steam the filling).
- Bake the tart for approximately 25 minutes or until the pudding is firm.
- Serve chilled and pour over an additional drizzle of honey.