The Persians were the first ancient society to cultivate pistachio nuts, and for thousands of years these green nuts have grown in the Middle East. The Old Testament of the Bible mentions pistachios, and the Queen of Sheba favored them so much that she instructed pistachio growers in her land to supply her and her court. The popularity of pistachios grew as the nuts made their way into new territories due to military conquest and trading.
Persian pistachio growers achieved wealth and high status in ancient times. Cultivation of pistachios spread to territories outside of the Middle East during the era of Arab expansion. Venetian traders brought pistachios cultivated in Syria to Italy as they journeyed along sea trade routes. They were also introduced into Greece and Spain. When pistachios entered into central Europe they were known as the Latin penny nut due to their association with Italian traders.
In the 1880s, pistachios arrived in the United States as an imported product enjoyed by citizens with Middle Eastern backgrounds. Botanist William E. Whitehouse obtained 20 pounds of pistachio nuts in Syria and brought them back to the United States to experiment with cultivation. After years of trial and error, growers in California figured out how to properly grow thriving pistachio crops. As of 2015, California grows over $1 billion worth of pistachios. Millions of dollars worth of pistachio nuts are also produced in Arizona and New Mexico.