HomeProgressBronte DOP green pistachio, a Sicilian treasure

Bronte DOP green pistachio, a Sicilian treasure

A small fruit with shell, from an ancient Sicilian village on the outskirts of Catania, reveals the myth of the green pistachio of Bronte DOP. Symbol and richness of the territory as well as protagonist of numerous festivals and festivals, such as the Pistachio Festival which every year attracts thousands of visitors to Bronte from all over Italy and abroad.

1) Pistachio, history and origins

History of pistachio (pistàkion, in ancient Greek) is lost in the mists of time. Its first written traces date back to the Old Testament (Genesis 42/43 verse 11). The Assyrians, during the reign of Ashurbanipal I (668-626 BC), celebrated the pistachio in the Kolach obelisk, in the repertoire of the most appreciated plants. Its cultivation in ancient civilizations – Jews, Babylonians, Assyrians and Greeks – is documented as early as the XNUMXrd century BC

Lucius Vitellius, governor of Syria in the Roman Empire, brought the pistachio between 20 and 30 AD and helped spread its cultivation in Italy and Spain. The Arabs favored its cultivation in Sicily, around 900 AD, thanks to grafting techniques. The Bronte dialect still refers to the terms 'frastuca' and 'frastucara', from the Arabic 'fristach' and 'frastuch', to indicate the pistachio fruit and plant respectively.

The territory of Bronte – thanks to the lava soil fertilized by the ashes of the nearby Etna volcano and its sciarre (accumulations of volcanic waste) – it turned out to be an ideal habitat for the cultivation of an excellent quality pistachio which still occupies approximately 2.000 hectares of lava soil. An extraordinary union between the plant and the volcanic environment, where it produces fruits appreciated in pastry and gastronomy for their excellent organoleptic properties. (1)

2) Cultivation

Cultivation of pistachio requires attention since it is a dioecious plant, with male and female plants that must be planted in proximity - in an ideal ratio of 1/10 between male and female plants - to encourage pollination. It is grafted onto Terebinth (Pistacia terebinthus), a spontaneous shrub belonging to the same family as the Anacardiaceae, which also adapts to rocky terrain.

The plant it is resilient, as it adapts to poor and arid soil, as well as tolerating high temperatures and drought. And it is long-lived, up to 300 years, although production is slow - starting in 7-8 years and peaking 15-20 years after sowing - and alternating, with abundant and scarce fruits in successive years.

The deep roots and the plant's ability to host different species of insects, birds and microorganisms - as well as the possibility of not using pesticides or nitrogen fertilizers - promote biodiversity, as well as contributing to the prevention of soil erosion.

3) Bronte DOP green pistachio

The green pistachio of Bronte DOP it is characterized both by the cultivar (Pistacia vera, L.), itself highly appreciated for its organoleptic qualities, and by the peculiar climatic and geological conditions of the area.

The crops they take place on the slopes of the Etna volcano, still active, between 400 and 900 meters above sea level. The production area covers over 2000 hectares in the municipalities of Bronte, Biancavilla and Adrano.

Volcanic eruptions and the lava flows have enriched the soil with minerals and organic substances, giving the Bronte pistachio its characteristic emerald green color and an intense, persistent aroma.

4) Nutritional properties

Pistachios they are rich in proteins, dietary fibre, unsaturated fats and micronutrients such as vitamins (A, B, C, E, K) and minerals (potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium). (2) The Bronte pistachio also stands out, compared to other varieties, for its higher content of oil and unsaturated fatty acids. As well as a unique concentration of aromatic substances. (3)

The presence of carotenoids (beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin) e polyphenols (anthocyanins, catechins and isoflavones), to which properties of prevention of cardiovascular diseases and contribution to the reduction of 'bad cholesterol' (LDL) in the blood are attributed. Anthocyanins, in particular, have an anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor action. (3)

5) Consortium for the protection of Bronte PDO pistachios

The protection consortium of Pistachio di Bronte DOP, founded in 2004, has a fundamental role in safeguarding the authenticity and promotion of this unique product, which has obtained protection in the European Union - through recognition of the 'Protected Designation of Origin' (PDO, or DOP, or AOP) – in 2009. The president of the Consortium Massimo Enrico Cimbali, interviewed by GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade), offers some ideas on the ongoing activities:

– continuous commitment to the fight against fraud, through checks entrusted to a network of inspectors who collaborate with the certifying bodies and report any irregularities and food fraud to the competent authorities,

– promotion and valorisation of the Bronte PDO green pistachio through specific projects which include participation in fairs and events,

– collaboration with universities, research bodies, institutions and associations, for research and innovation in the name of sustainable development of the supply chain. (4)

5.1) Beware of fraud

International reputation of the green pistachio of Bronte DOP - which corresponds to a great demand from importers and buyers, often unaware of the commercial value and limited production - expose this product to widespread fraud and counterfeiting, in physical and online retail but also in collective catering, as it is seen. (5) Food fraud concerns pistachios themselves and processed products where their presence is declared. The phenomena recorded so far concern:

– sale as 'Bronte pistachio' of pistachios that come from other countries and continents, from Turkey to Iran to California. Since imitation pistachios have organoleptic properties (flavor, color and shape) different from those of Bronte, some frauds have included the addition of food additives (i.e. colourants) and prohibited flavourings,

– mixing Bronte pistachio with pistachios of different origins and characteristics, in variable proportions. This fraud is more difficult to detect, because it requires chemical or genetic analyzes to verify the presence of pistachios other than those of Bronte,

– evocation of the name of Bronte on processed products (eg pistachio pesto and cream, nougat, ice cream, desserts, etc.) that contain pistachios of different origins, misleading consumers about the origin and authenticity of the precious fruit.

6) Perspectives

Global food demand of the Bronte PDO green pistachio supply chain - as well as that of Raffadali Pistachio PDO (6) - cannot be expressed in quantities except to a marginal extent, without prejudice to the hypotheses of extension of the production area and long-term investments. Quality can instead be enhanced by following the two parallel paths of:

– conversion of the production system to the organic regime, as the maximum expression of sustainability and increase in added value,

– supply chain traceability with blockchain technology, 'from seed to fork', to guarantee operators and consumers the authenticity of each production batch. (7)

The European Union has meanwhile introduced new 'marketing standards' for nuts, with mandatory indication of origin, which will facilitate official controls at borders and on the internal market. (8)

Dario Dongo and Gabriele Sapienza


(1) Consortium for the protection of Pistachio Verde di Bronte PDO https://foodtimes.eu/4yuunfth

(2) CREATE. Food composition tables Bronte Pistachio PDO https://foodtimes.eu/2p8fsw9k

(3) Laura D'Evoli, Massimo Lucarini, Paolo Gabrielli, Altero Aguzzi, Ginevra Lombardi-Boccia (2015). Nutritional Value of Italian Pistachios from Bronte (Pistacia vera, L.), Their Nutrients, Bioactive Compounds and Antioxidant Activity. Food and Nutrition Sciences,06,1267-1276. doi: 10.4236/fns.2015.614132

(4) G. Marino, S. Di Martino, A. Amico Roxas, T. Caruso, L. Ferguson, E. Barone, FP Marra,
Sustainability of pistachio production (Pistacia vera L.) under supplemental irrigation in a Mediterranean climate. Scientia Horticulturae,
Volume 241, 2018, 260-266.

(5) Dario Dongo, Marta singed, Dop and Igp at the restaurant, fraud on the menu, GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 5.5.19

(6) Marta Strinati. Pistachio of Raffadali DOP, green gold of Sicily. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(7) Dario Dongo, Gianluca Mascellino. Public blockchain, Noberasco at the start with Wiise Chain. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(8) Dario Dongo. Fruit and vegetables, dried fruit and nuts, mandatory origin in the EU. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

Trainee Assistant Researcher | Website URL | + posts

Graduated in Agriculture, with experience in sustainable agriculture and permaculture, laboratory and ecological monitoring.

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