Discovering the Sicilian pistachioA Sicilian Lifestyle Blog
The history of the Sicilian pistachio
We all know how much we love the Sicilian Pistachio but why is that and what is so special about them? A big part of our Sicilian culinary journey was the time where we were (still are) completely fascinated by all the cultural invasions that took place in Sicily and the footprint they left behind on the land, the Moors being one! Native to the Middle East, they were first introduced to Sicily by the Moors, who ruled Sicily during the 9th-11th Century. Today the seeds are hand harvested in the exact same way of picking from the tree, de-shelling the seeds and spreading them out to dry by the Sicilian sun for 3 days whilst ensuring they are safeguarded from the rain and night time humidity. Pistachio trees can live up to 300 years but take their time to bear fruit, with the first harvest usually taking place a decade after planting. In Bronte the harvest has become somewhat of a ritual which has been passed down through generations.
Why are Sicilian pistachios superior?
We get asked this question all the time, the short answer is the Sicilian pistachio is truly one of the finest varieties in the world for unrivalled flavor, smaller, sweeter, and richer than standard pistachios, hence referred to as “Sicily’s green gold”. Harvested on the east coast of Sicily in the town of Bronte grown on the mineral-rich slopes of Mt. Etna, as the eruptions from the still active volcano create a topsoil dense in mineral-rich lava stone which acts as a natural fertiliser, our pistachios are truly nurtured by the land.
The pistachio trees are dry farmed and never chemically fertilised or irrigated. Due to growing on the volcanic soil, they are not accessible to agricultural machines and so are hand harvested once every 2 years (on odd years), with each tree producing a few kilograms of pistachios. During off years, the trees are pruned to reduce yields so they can concentrate on flavour. In comparison to California’s pistachios which are designed for mass production so they are heavily watered, causing a depletion in water resources and a lighter taste to the nut.
Bronte pistachios have attracted global attention despite accounting for less than 1% of the world’s pistachio production. Their low production and high demand make them difficult to find but are also causing farmers to safeguard their harvest from the growing activity of nut thieves. It’s important that we respect the land our pistachios are grown on and that’s why we take such great care of the production of all our family pistachio recipes that we now get to share with you too.
How to recognise the Sicilian Pistachio
Visually the Sicilian pistachio can be immediately recognized by its vibrant green and purple colour. To taste, you should experience sweet, savoury and earthy flavours as they retain more oil than standard pistachios which prevents overdrying.
Uses of the Sicilian pistachio
It is a fairly versatile nut which can be used in savoury dishes such as to top salads or create pesto and also sweet dishes such as gelato, candied and sweet nut spreads. Discover our full pistachio collection here, including our:
– Crema di Pistacchio Siciliano 180g “Sweet Pistachio Spread”
– Signature Sicilian Pistachio Cake
– Sicilian Pistachio Filled Chocolate Truffles