Growing into tangled green webs, pistachio trees color the steep volcanic foothills of Mount Etna. Fed from mineral rich volcanic soil, these Sicilian pistachio trees procure vibrant green nuts encased in royal purple. Rich, creamy, moist and stunningly sweet, these raw pistachios are widely acknowledged as the best pistachios on the market. With their roots planted deeply into Mount Etna’s rocky skirt, pistachio trees cannot be reached with machines. As a result, the cherished nuts are carefully hand-picked during the harvest months (August-September). Contributing to just 1% of the world’s pistachio market, Bronte's hand-picked and shelled pistachios fetch a high price, and have garnered international acclaim as Sicily’s “green gold” or “Sicilian emeralds.”
With its moniker as the “Capital of Pistachio”, the extraordinarily lush town of Bronte is built into the western slopes of Mount Etna and falls within Sicily’s first established natural park, Parco dell'Etna, and Parco dei Nebrodi, the largest protected area in Sicily. Inhabited since ancient times, the town has survived multiple eruptions, and is uniquely and intrinsically tied to the whims of Sicily’s largest volcano. To preserve the quality and balance of their soils, and in turn the quality of their nuts, pistachio farmers in Bronte only harvest their nuts bi-annually, allowing the trees and soil a year to recover between harvest.
Much like Sicily’s beloved citrus, Sicilians have the Arabs to thank for introducing another one of their treasured crops. Brought over by the Arabs in the 9th century, pistachios were quickly cultivated in the foothills of Monte Etna. Overtime, the luscious green nut came to flavor many regional dishes, spreading throughout the island by the 13th century to become an essential crop for Bronte and its regional economy and cultural identity. Accounting for nearly all of Italy’s pistachio production, Green Pistachios from Bronte are now protected as a recognized DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) in order to preserve their integrity both in quality as well as in cultural significance.
Offering luscious, sweet flavor and powerful green coloring, shelled pistachios can be found in a great variety of cuisines across Sicily. From stunningly encrusted racks of lamb, to holiday cookies, pestos, cannoli, and gelato, the emerald nuts deliver pops of bold color and a distinctive flavor everywhere it goes. What’s your favorite way to use them? Let us know in the comments below.