Green gold from Etna. This is the title that has been given to this precious plant that is cultivated on the northern slopes of the Sicilian volcano: pistachio.
It was taken to Sicily by the Romans who wanted to cultivate this unusual oriental fruit in their empire. But not all Sicilian soil is suitable, and pistachio decided it would grow in the Bronte area in the province of Catania, and was renamed with the local dialect expressions frastuca (fruit) and frastucara (plant) which corresponded to the terms used during the Arab domain.
On these small trees, with their knotty and twisted trunks, small bunches grow like cherries, with hard woody shells that contain the precious fruit, nuts with a rubbery resinous husk that turns reddish white when they are ripe. Time is needed to cultivate pistachio: the plants grow on rough land, on the lava rocks and the fruit is hand picked, one at a time, every two years between the end of August and the beginning of September.
90% of this Green gold that is on sale comes from Bronte, and it is used for its aromatic and pleasant flavour to prepare first courses like tagghiarini, hand made noodles made with flour and pistachio, for sweet items like pastries, cakes, ice cream, nougat and also to aromatise and add flavour to several drinks.
A prince in the kitchen, rich in protein and vitamins, much sought after abroad to produce top quality food, which has a place of honour in the Bronte fetes and events. The Pistachio fete is held between the end of September and the beginning of October and every year it fills the squares and streets of the town centre the (Annunziata district and Corso Umberto) with its wonderful aroma, in a typical country town where arts and professions of time gone by are proposed with a display of the original antique items.
Did you know?
Pistachio trees never grow any taller than 6 meters, and they have very deep roots, a short twisted trunk with a brownish grey colour. They can be found in various parts of the world, like Iran and Turkey, but in Italy they are mainly cultivated in Sicily in the provinces of Catania, Caltanissetta and Agrigento. Pistachio seeds contain protein, oil, extracted nitrogen free substances and vitamins; it has a high nutritional value, with twice as many calories as butter. The pistachio oil that is extracted from the fruit is also used in dermatology for its excellent moisturising and softening properties. The galls (swellings) are also used which are formed on the leaves by a certain insect Pemphigus Pistaciae, and are rich in tannin, the Bokhara Galls (an Iranian name) are widely used in the tanning industry and the wood is used for creating ornaments.