Bronte's economy

Green Bronte pistachio

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Bronte's Pistachio

The Picking

The brontese pistachio picking is two-yearly and is carried out in the uneven years, towards the end of August and the start of September.

Each plant produces from 5 to 15 Kg of tignosella (so is called the fruit when peeled and dried) with maximum peaks of 20-30 Kg..

On the even years, when there is no picking, is carried out what is called the green pruning: the flowering buds in the extensions of the previous year are removed by hand.
The green pruning is a tradition  that goes back to earliest times - probably to the Arab domination period - and that is handed down from father to son without a continuity solution.

Testimony of a culture, the peasant one, according to which, thanks to the "rest", the plant can absorb from the rocky land  the necessary substances to produce a fruit richer of fragrance and full of unmistakable flavors.

Every two years (the uneven ones) over 30 thousand quintals of pistachios are picked in Bronte. That represents just the 1% of the world production, but, for our town, represents the most significant economic element both for the surface interested in such cultivation and for the relevant value of the production.

Also because of the steep and impervious areas in which this plant is cultivated, and of the danger of dispersion of the crop, the picking is done totally by hand, directly from the tree, and, in some cases, by laying canvas under the trees with considerable use of costly manpower.

A game of patient hands smeared by plenty of resin from the branches, a feast and a toil eagerly awaited, to which all the family participates, included women and children.

After the picking  the fruit, by mechanical rubbing, is"sgrollato" (separated fromits leathery  cover) and dried  for 3-4 days in the sun, in large open spaces prepared in front of the farm-houses.

This way is obtained the pistachio in its shell, locally called Tignosella, kept by the producers, before selling it, in dark and dry rooms. After two years of work and of spending a lot of money the producer's toil is finished.

But because of a too low  price or of a scarce crop, often it is not possible to recover the relevant cost of financial and physic energies. The last year (2000), for instance, for the adverse climatic conditions, 60% of the crop was lost.

The shelling of the pistachio seed  is done mechanically by the cooperatives or the local merchants to whom the product is sold or conferred.

Up to some past decades  the shelling was still done manually in the producers houses: with infinite patience and a rudimentary technique consisting in a block of lava rock, emptied inside, ("u sciffu"), onthe edges of which  the pistachios, one by one, were hit and broken with hammers or stones.

Today the biennale work of the producers stops with the  "tignosella" (the unshelled pi­stachio): for the shelling and peeling the fruit is brought to centers of  collections or sold directly to exporters. Such processing is required by importing countries and confectionery and canning indu­stries. In fact, just because of its bright green color (a true trademark), the brontese  pistachio is commercialized nearly exclusively as "peeled".

The peeling, removal  of the thin purple-reddish pellicle is done by a highly technologic process  which exposes the fruit to a brief jet of high pressure steam that causes the separation of the skin.

"u sciffu"A following passage to the peeling machine that, by rubbing of the rollers at differentiated speed, removes the pellicle.

The green pistachios then go through a complex drying process at low speed and from this to an electronic selecting machine that rejects eventual pistachio of not the right color.

The product now dry (with a humidity of 4-5%) is wrapped up in cartons of 12,5 Kg.. The processing cycle is now concluded. In ambient fresh and dry the product preserves its color for several months, and then starts fading.

That is why the Cooperatives and the exporters peel their pistachios only to order and don't keep stock of "peeled pistachio" as this, before being peeled, can be kept in cold store for over a year without loosing any of its peculiarities.

Two years of hard work and long wait have gone by, but the result is the precious pistachio of Bronte, emerald green in color and rich of unmistakable, perceptible qualities.

Pistacchio pelato in cartoni da 12,5 Kg pronto per l'esportazioneThe intense green color of the cotyledons, the  elongated shape, the aromatic taste and the high content of unsaturated fat acids of the fruit, are not easily found in the product of other areas.

That determines a net preference towards product of American or Asian origin that presents, for the great part, roundish and yellow seeds, or not completely green and often yellowish, due to diverse climatic conditions, even if its price is always  lower respect to the brontese product.

Everybody in Bronte, in alternate years, waits anxiously for the month of September to reap the fruit of a long and hard work.

The harvest lasts about a month. And during these thirty days the Corso Umberto (“a chiazza”) becomes literally a desert; everybody, young and old, students and clerks, women and children, ignoring the stifling heat, are in the “lochi” to shake the branches and pick up the precious fruit, to remove the husk from it and let it dry up in the sun.

At this time Bronte’s stony fields come alive with people waking up from a long sleep, and becoming joyful and happy, singing and seatng at impressive spreads.

And then the party begins: the Bronte Green Pistachio Festival.


The typology of the land does not permit the use of any mechanization: prevails always the toil of the worker.
Even the picking is done by hand or with canvas and nets laid below the tree and in some cases  with sling-bags tied around the neck in which fall the fruits when the worker shakes the branches.

Much toil and so much good will is needed to pick up, with patience, one by one the small fruits which are di­spersed on the ground. To watch the picking of pista­chio is like going back in time, to notice the great con­trast, where from the sharp and black lava rises "ner­vous" but full of life the pistachio plant.

After being picked, the fruit must be immediately sepa­rated from the outer skin. This separation is done by mechanical rubbing with a simple and ingenious machi­ne consisting of a spiked roller and a piece of wire net­ting.

The pistachios, have to dry in the sun for 2/3 days before being put in bags and preserved in dark and dry rooms before the sale.

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Translated by Sam Di BellaITALIAN VERSION

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