For our weekly Italian Delicacies series, we look at that nutty perfection that is Sicilian pistachio.
I thought I knew pistachio until I went to Sicily and tried the region’s varieties, starting from the world-famous Pistacchio di Bronte, a Slow Food Presidium, grown in the hilly lands around Bronte, near Mount Etna in eastern Sicily.
Only here does it acquire that peculiar emerald-green color and intense fragrance. Pistachio trees alternate one productive year with one year of rest, when farmers trim off the buds sprouting from the branches to help trees better store their energy for the next season. They are never fertilized nor irrigated, and only slightly treated.
Harvesting takes place between the end of August and early September, and during this period everyone helps out in the “loci”, the local name for the pistachio groves, including children and the elderly.
Besides promoting the Bronte pistachio itself, the Slow Food Presidium also promotes the delicious pistachio-based sweets that are a major component of Sicily’s traditional confectionery and pastries. There is no single café or pastry shop in Bronte that does not offer pistachio-based dolcetti, and we highly recommend that you try them!
But it’s not just about the pistacchio di Bronte: not many are aware of the fact that there is another area in Sicily producing high-quality pistachio: Raffadali, in the so-called Valle dei Platani, in the province of Agrigento. The pistachio produced here is particularly prized and sought after by chefs for its aromatic and pleasant taste, which makes for a wonderful addition to pastries, gelato and to flavor many dishes (I particularly like it in pasta dishes). The oil extracted from the fruit is used in dermatology for its soothing and softening qualities.
To promote the pistachio cultivated here, a sagra organized by the local farmers takes place every year in November.
And, as if its deliciousness wasn’t enough, pistachio also boasts many health benefits, including reducing cholesterol, fighting free radicals, inflammations and bacteria. It contains vitamin A, iron and phosphorus.
Make sure you try Sicilian pistachio the next time you visit Sicily!
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