The cultivation of pistachios is more than ten thousand years old and is even mentioned in the Bible (Genesis 43:11) as Jacob’s precious gift:
“Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be, then do this: Put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man as a gift—a little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds.”
Pistachio even appeared in the legend of the Queen of Sheba: when Queen Sheba visited King Solomon, she travelled with many camels packed with spices and other delicacies (including pistachios). The Queen of Sheba owned a private plantation of pistachios.
Under the sun of Sicily
The Arabs conquered Sicily in the middle of the 9th century. The pistachio cultivation found new life and, above all, a special development ambience, the Etna fields. In the province of Catania, an extraordinary connection was developed between the pistachio plants and the lava, which was continuously fertilised by the volcanic ash. Here the pistachio plant was able to flourish abundantly and to this day this area of Catania is the productive and economic centre of pistachio cultivation in the towns of Bronte, Adrano and Biancavilla.
The harvest of the pistachios takes place between the end of August and the beginning of September: the trees are not fertilized or irrigated, also because there is really little water in the Etna zone. The pistachio trees are treated very little and pruned a few times a year: they produce every two years, and during the dormant year the few buds that have emerged on the branches are removed so that the plant can store as much energy as possible. Harvesting is very complicated, as you have to "float" on the lava rocks, holding on to the branches with one hand, while tearing off the grains with the other hand one by one and drop them into a canvas bag tied around your neck. Generally, no more than 20 kilos of product are harvested in one working day, and only on the 'easiest' soils can harvesting be facilitated by placing a tarpaulin under the trees.