Pistachio festival in Bronte, Sicily
Food festivals are my thing. Especially when they are built around an esoteric food item in an obscure place. Like the kurtoshkalacs festival in Budapest. Or the Kytherian wine festival in Mitata. Bring it on.
Pistachios are not exactly rare but to me they’ve always sat at the more exotic end of the nut scale. I’ve always associated pistachios with my Sicilian bestie Katia who uses them in a pasta recipe handed down from her nonna. Crushed pistachios envelop pancetta and cream to create a dish that makes grown men weep with pleasure. I’ve actually seen it happen.
One of my foodie dreams came true last year when I had the opportunity to travel through Sicily with Katia during its iconic pistachio festival, Expo del Pistacchio. I was beyond excited.
Pistachios are a big deal in Bronte because they are arguably the best in the world. Why? Because Bronte (which incidentally means ‘thunder’) sits at the base of Mt Etna and the pistachio trees grow out of the volcanic lava rock. The minerals in the lava soil are absorbed by the plants to create a distinctive nut which is sweet and fragrant.
So distinctive in fact that in 2009 they were granted the coveted DOP marque (Protected Designation of Origin), which guarantees locally grown and harvested produce using traditional methods. In the case of Bronte pistachios that means only picking, hulling and drying the pistachios by hand every two years to protect the trees and quality.
2018 was not a harvest year but you’d scarcely have known. Supplies are held back in the year of harvest to ensure there’s enough for the following year, especially for the famous festival.
Ahh the festival. For two weekends in October at the end of harvest, the entire town shuts down to pay homage to this revered nut. Everyone from chubby cheeked babies to nonnas clutching walking frames are littered across the length of the main drag. This is passeggiata (the Italian ritual of strolling through town each evening) on steroids.
How many pistachio flavoured things have you eaten in your life? Pistachio gelato, maybe pistachio amaretti? You’ve basically just been warming up. The Sicilians have mastered the preparation of this deep green and purple nut to perfection. Read More