Pistachio - history and traditions
Let’s start from its texture, as it is certified by the National Institute of Research on Food and Nutrition: pistachio is made of 83% lipids, 12% proteins and 5% carbohydrates.
Its origin dates back to Prehistory and the first evidence is in Middle East, especially in Persia. As written in his famous Deipnosophistai, Athenaeus of Naucratis, Greek writer and sophist who lived in the second century, in the Roman Empire, several Greek and Hellenic authors talk about pistachio, and place its cultivation in Syria, Persia and India, and they call it “bistachion” or “pistakia” or “pistakion”. There is no evidence on the thesis, supported because of recent ideological reasons, that “pistachio” comes from Arabic (fustuaq). Pistachio cultivation was introduced in Italy only at end of Tiberius’ Empire, by Lucius Vitellus, Roman governor in Syria, in 30 A.D.
Arabs imported pistachio into Sicily (the dialect word “frastuca” actually stems from the Arab “fustuaq”, pistachio), at the beginning only in the areas of Agrigento and Caltanissetta, and then in Bronte, as it is proven in the first written evidence, in the mid-fourteenth century. At least ten varieties of pistachio are recorded. In Italy, we may find the Pistacia Vera, the only one that gives edible fruit, the Terebinto (used as engraftation of Pistacia Vera) and the Lentiscu, evergreen plant used as ornament.
The Pistacia Vera grows in Sicily on lava lands in the Southwest slope of Etna, especially in the areas of Bronte (mainly), Adrano, Ragalna, Biancavilla, Belpasso. More than 90% of Italian pistachio production (that is 2% of world production) concerns the so-called Bianca (or Napoletana), cultivated in the area of Bronte and protected by the POD mark.
Bronte’s Bianca is engrafted on plants of spontaneous terebinth. Harvest takes place in alternate years, with a year of charging and a year of discharging, when fruiting buds are suppressed so that they may be not infected by the Chaetoptelius vestitus, which interrupts the biological circle. The propagation happens by engrafting terebinth seeds, in June, with buds taken from two/three-year-old branches.
Bianca is an intense green fruit, with a higher percentage of chlorophyll than usual, and a lengthened oval shape. Post-harvest treatment is to enamel fruit and dry them out in the sun for 4-5 days. Bronte Pistachio is not salted and must not be toasted. The quality control concerns the whole chain, from harvesting to storage, from the warehouse up to processing and to the finished pistachio.