Pistachio in Bronte

The Arabs, ripping off Sicily from the Byzantines, promoted and disseminated the culture of Pistachio in the island and, to confirm this, just consider the etymological affinity of the dialectal name given to pistachio with the corresponding Arabic term. Frastuca (the fruit) and Frastucara (the plant) are derived, in fact, from Arabic words “fristach”, “frastuch” and “festuch”, in their turn derived from the Persian word “fistich”. The species has had particularly development starting from the second half of the nineteenth century in the provinces of Caltanissetta, Agrigento and Catania.In the latter, at the foot of Mount Etna, in the territory of Bronte, the culture of Pistachio experienced the greatest expansion in 1860 so that entire pastures and vacant lots were turned into pistacchieti and pistachio became the centre of all the agricultural and economic system of the area.

The Plant

The pistachio (Pistacia vera) is a shrub, rarely a small tree, tall up to 6 metres, with deep roots, gnarled and twisted trunk brownish gray and the deciduous foliage. If we want to cultivate the pistachio, it is necessary to know that every eight female plants we must plant a male, the Terebinth (Pistacia Terebinthus, locally called “scornabecco” or even “spaccasassi”), and still know that the male must be planted in windward, while females in downwind, so that the air flow can carry the pollen of flowers by males up to the pistil of the females. The soil, characterized by volcanic rocks, creates substantial barriers to the mechanization of all cultural practices essential to the production of Pistachios and results in high production costs. The pistachio of the volcano Etna is imposed a two-year production cycle, in order not to excessively stress the plant and get a higher quality Pistachio.

The Fruit

The fruit of the pistachio comes in bunches similar to those of cherries, but with a much larger number of elements. They are walnuts, with chewy and resinous husk enveloping the woody shell that is very resistant. It will be for the extraordinary combination between the plant and the lava terrain, rich in mineral salts, it will be for the Sun and the air of this land; the fact is that the Pistachio produced in this part of the island grows lush and exceeds in terms of aroma, taste and organoleptic properties of the remaining global production. No one else has an emerald green so bright and smell so intense. After harvesting, the pistachio is husked and then left to dry in the sun for 5-6 days. By removing the husk of the fruit you get in-shell pistachios, locally called “Tignosella”, then shelled and peeled. In a cool, dry environment the product preserves color and flavor for several months.

Uses

Seven Pistachios per day (strictly without salt!) are a lifesaver: diuretics, cholesterol, anti-anxiety and useful even if anti-infectives, mild depression. But mostly … pistachios are not fattening! Because they can even help you lose weight due to the high amount of fiber and the general feeling of fullness they offer. The pistachio is highly prized and, for its aromatic taste, very sought after in pastry, ice cream, and for flavoring and seasoning many meals. The oil extracted from the Pistachio is also used in dermatology and cosmetics, thanks to the considerable soothing and softening qualities.

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