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Israel Environment & Nature: Pistachio

PISTACHIO (Heb. בָּטְנָה; botnah), the tree and fruit of the Pistacia vera, a dioeciou

s tree. The female tree produces reddish clusters of nuts with a white shell and a greenish kernel of delicate flavor. The word occurs only once in the Bible, in the plural, (Heb. בָּטְנִים (botnim)), among the "choice fruits of the land" sent by Jacob to the ruler of Egypt (Gen. 43:11). The Samaritan translation of the word is biẓtekin, i.e., pistachio. The Mishnah calls the tree botnah (Shev. 7:5) and its fruit pistakin. They were grown in Israel, and subject to tithes (TJ, Ma'as, 1:2, 48d). Two members of its genus, Pistacia palaestina and Pistacia atlantica, are indigenous to Ereẓ Israel but the fruit is hardly edible. It was customary, however, to graft the pistachio onto the branches of these species whose trees and fruit are called botmin (Ar. but'm) in the Talmud. The pistachio tree is similar to the latter, but its nuts taste like the almond, and in consequence the ancients thought it to be a hybrid of these two species (TJ, Kil. 1:4, 27a). In modern Hebrew botnim is used to designate peanuts. The identification is erroneous, for not only was the peanut brought from the Americas, but it is not a tree, as botnim definitely are, according to the Mishnah.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.