The economy of the small town of Bronte (Catania), on the foothills of Mount Etna in Sicily, is based on the “green gold from the base of the volcano”, as locals the exquisite variety of pistachio that grows only there.

Small, fresh, sweet, moist, and rich, these nuts are a bright emerald-green color and have an intense, resinous fragrance enveloped in skins beautifully brushed in royal purple. The trees are never fertilized, but the minerals contained in the lava that is part of the soil give them their unique flavor, which is even more concentrated because the trees are never irrigated.

The pistachio trees alternate productive years with years of rest, during which they are pruned so that the tree can store their energy for the next season. The harvest is done entirely by hand, and it takes place between the end of August and early September, and during this period all the 20,000 inhabitants of the town, including children and the elderly, help out in the “loci”, the local name for the pistachio groves. Subsequently, the nuts are spread under cloth canopies overnight, then shelled and packaged whole, chopped, ground or as a paste.

This incredible nut, which has no comparison with other similar international products, has even been granted government protection, with Slow Food promoting together with Sicily’s delicious traditional pastries, which offer one of the best ways to appreciate the pistachios’ quality. There is not a single cafe or pastry shop in Bronte that does not offer pistachio-based sweets, but the nut is also found in many other pasta or beef recipes.

Ilona Catani Scarlett

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