What we grow - Biodiversity



Pistachio is the fruit of the homonymous tree (Pistacia vera – Anacardiaceae family – Pistacia genus), used for fresh consumption and in many sweet and salty recipes. Originally from the Middle East, it was already cultivated in prehistoric times, particularly in Persia. Several Greek and Hellenistic authors speak of pistachio, placing its cultivation in Syria, Persia and India, calling it “bistachion”, “pistakia” or “pistakion”. In the Sicilian dialect, the terms still used today of Arabic origin “frastuca” (“Fristach”) and “frastucara” (“Frastuch”), respectively indicate the fruit and the plant. It was the Arabs who, once they arrived in Sicily (Considered strategic for the control of the Mediterranean Sea to the detriment of Byzantine rivals, conquered in the period between 827 A.D. and 1091 A.D.), began to increase the cultivation of pistachio, especially on the slopes of the Etna volcano. This happened through the application of some agronomic techniques and exploiting the territory, the so-called “Sciara” (Term widespread in the Etna area to indicate accumulations of volcanic slags that form on the surface or on the sides of the lava flows), in which there was a considerable presence of shrubs typical of the Mediterranean flora (Terebinth, in Sicilian, “Scornabeccu” or “Spaccasassi”, so called because it is rustic and with roots that reach deep, making space between the volcano stones present in the subsoil in search of water) which, through the practice of grafting, were converted into pistachio plants.


The pistachio is a tree, deciduous and broad-leaved, which can reach a height of about 5-6 meters (Sometimes up to 11-12 meters). Pistachio is very long-lived and reaches an age of about 300 years, with a very slow growth. The fruit is a drupe with an oval endocarp with a thin and hard shell, containing the seed, commonly called “pistachio” which has a bright green color under a purple skin. Pistachio tree has unisexual flowers and is dioecious, so there are plants with only male flowers and plants with only female flowers (Which produce the fruits). The flowers are petal and collected in buds. A male tree can produce enough pollen to fertilize up to 10 female plants. Flowering takes place in April and the fruit is harvested in September-October. The wood is hard and dense, has a yellowish color.


Pistachios are very energetic foods, whose calories are mainly supplied by lipids, followed by proteins and finally by carbohydrates. Fats have a prevalence of unsaturated ones (Omega 6 – linoleic acid and Omega 9 – oleic acid). Pistachios contain no cholesterol and are very high in fiber, as well as being lactose and gluten free. They are rich in water-soluble vitamins (B1, B6, PP) and fat-soluble vitamins (A, E, K). Among the minerals, the concentrations of phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, manganese, copper, zinc and selenium are remarkable. Ideal for breakfast, added to natural white yogurt or hot porridge, or as a mid-morning or afternoon snack. Shelled and natural, toasted and slightly salted, finely chopped or transformed into flour or cream, it is characterized by an intense aroma and a sweet, persistent and resinous flavor, lending itself to being combined with both sweet and salty ingredients.


The pistachio tree bears fruit in a two-year cycle, even if, in reality, the plant produces fruits every year, but it is very subject to alternation and, to favor a better production, during the “discharge years”, the fruits are completely removed. For some years, thanks to the advent of modern agronomic techniques, in many areas it has been cultivated according to an annual cycle, optimizing production. The pistachio tree prefers mild temperatures (18-30°C), while it tolerates well the drops of several degrees below zero (It also has a certain need in cold to be able to bear fruit). In summer, temperatures above 30°C slow down the vegetative growth. Sensitive to humidity, in these conditions it can easily develop fungal diseases. In spring, during flowering, too much rain can make it difficult for pollen to spread and therefore reduce production. The wind, as long as it is not excessive, is necessary for pollination and to reduce moisture stagnation. The pistachio tree is a rustic and adaptable plant, which can be grown in a wide range of soils, even those rich in stones or limestone, as long as a minimum of drainage is guaranteed. In addition, it is suitable for tolerating some drought, but without extremes. In Italy, there are several niche production, such as the Bronte pistachio, grown on the slopes of Etna, the pistachio of Raffadali, near the city of Agrigento (Both protected by the P.D.O. brand) and the pistachio of Stigliano (Matera), whose production is among the largest in Europe. Other cultivation areas of international importance are found in the Middle East (Iran, Turkey and Syria), California, China and Greece. The most widespread variety in Italy is the “Bianca” (Called Napoletana or Nostrale, whose seed is green and represents the commercial factor of value).