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When visiting Sicily, it’s obvious that the cultivation of the home-grown vegetables, fruits, and legumes lends to the creation of the unique and flavorful cuisine. One of the most popular, and often surprising, flavors you will discover is pistachio. Whether in liqueurs, gelato, granita, or even sprinkled on top of pizzas and pastries, it is hard to miss this broadly used ingredient. Having gained popularity similar to the Philly Cheesesteak and French Bordeux, pistachios now have been granted government protection.
Grown at the base of the majestic Mt. Etna, on the east coast of Sicily, these prized green seeds have been termed Bronte Pistachios for the region in which they’re sewed. These delectable kernels have been grown in this area for centuries. The mineral-rich soils, infused by the flow of lava that has washed over this area, provide an unparalleled zone in which to raise pistachios. You won’t find another pistachio with this appearance and flavor anywhere else in the world.
Harvested every other year by predominantly family-owned operations, these producers have meticulous and careful procedures that maintain the quality. Leaving their trees free to tangle and wind around one another, the plants are never irrigated but are strictly protected, nonetheless. The pistachios grown here possess a different color than most natural pistachios; their shells are a vibrant green, and they have a plume of wispy purple and a distinctive potent aroma.
Once harvested, they are made into countless products for local and international markets. Whether ground into paste, sliced into delicate portions to be used as toppings, or whipped into sweet cakes and desserts, every part of the cherished nut is harnessed. The Bronte pistachio is very costly and as such has been termed “green gold.”
Due to the intense flavor and growing global popularity, the government of Sicily has awarded the Bronte pistachio with status as a Protected Designation of Origin, or PDO, which requires fixed methods of processing and production. Inspected by experts, the product must meet a staunch regimen and must be grown in the specific region to ensure authenticity and standards. With a PDO, the product label can advertise that they are “traditional,” which ensures that all requirements have been met and the cost is justified.
These viridescent gems are engrained in the history and culture of Sicily, and the government has made it so the customs and conventions of producing them are to be long fortified in the region. When visiting Sicily, it doesn’t take long to realize that pistachios are infused in the very fiber of Sicilian culture and cuisine, and they are delicious in every way.