P.D.O. Bronte Pistachio
It is called the "Green Gold" of Etna and is one of the most popular agro-food excellences in Sicily: the Pistachio from Bronte, a P.D.O. food (Denomination of Protected Origin) since 2009 and Slow Food Presidium, is considered the most exquisite pistachio in the world for quality, taste and organoleptic properties. It is cultivated in the territory of Bronte, in the province of Catania, where the lava rocks and the favorable climate make it an absolutely unique product.
Known since ancient times as a medicinal plant, an antidote against poisons and aphrodisiac, the pistachio tree was cultivated in Syria, Persia and India under the name "bistachion" or "pistakia" or "pistakion". It was introduced to Spain and Italy around 30 A.D. under the empire of Tiberius, by Lucius Vitellius, Roman praetor in Syria.
The pistachio has become part of the agricultural crops in Sicily thanks to the Arabs, who promoted and spread the culture of this precious fruit, in the provinces of Agrigento and Caltanissetta, and then in Bronte, where the pistachio trees found a privileged habitat and, in the mid 1800s, they knew their maximum expansion. Suffice it to say that in 1860 pastures and uncultivated land were turned into pistachios land, becoming the hub of the city's agricultural and economic system.
In Sicilian called frastuca (the fruit) or frastucara (the plant), from the Arabic terms "fristach", "frastuch" and "festuch" (which derive from the Persian "fistich"), this product of excellence, protected by a specific Consortium, it is characterized by an intense green fruit, with an elongated shape tending to the oval, and a sweet, delicate and aromatic taste. It is rich in vitamins, mineral salts and vegetable proteins; it helps regulate cholesterol and is good against tumors and viral and cardiac diseases. Protects the eyes and prevents visual problems; the high content of vitamin B6 is essential for some functions of the nervous system; the content of vitamin E is a valid antioxidant that protects the skin from the damage of UV radiation, and its saturated fats nourish dry skin.
The pistachio variety cultivated in Bronte is the Pistacia Vera, a fig-like plant that can live between 200 and 300 years, whose roots, thanks to the grafting with the Pistacia Terebinthus, are capable of breaking the volcanic lava. Also cultivated in the municipalities of Adrano and Biancavilla, Ragalna and Belpasso (between 400 and 900 meters above sea level), it is nicknamed "Oro Verde" for its high commercial value: more than 90% of the Italian production of pistachio includes the so-called Bianca di Bronte. The production in Sicily, which is biennial to allow the plant to rest and face of adverse climatic event, counts about 32,000 quintals of shelled pistachios, of which 20% is used in the national industry, while 80% is exported abroad.
Pistachios are harvested between the end of August and the beginning of September, when the country is empty. The harvesting is done in the loci (local name of the pistachios land) regardless of age and gender, by men, women, elderly and children. A maximum of 20 kilos of pistachios are collected in one working day because the harvesting is a very complicated activity: people stay poised on lava boulders, clinging to the branches with one hand, They harvest the pistachios one by one to make them fall into the bag tied to the neck. Only in the easiest terrains, a tarpaulin can be placed under the trees to help.
After the harvesting, the fruits are dried by the producer, who then sell them with their shell to the companies, which deal with the following processing and marketing.
Pistachios are used as an ingredient for desserts and ice creams, to make panitti (sweets made with a mixture of almonds, pistachios, dried figs and honey), pistachio cream, pistachio chocolate. They are also used as dried fruit to flavor mortadella or as pasta seasoning (Brontese pesto).
Every year between September and October the Pistachio Festival is held in Bronte, an event dedicated to this precious product which includes tastings, conventions and exhibitions.