Presentation

The territory

The history and mythology offer many examples of how known and appreciated the quality of agricultural products of Etna was since ancient times. The reasons for such appreciation reside in the complex balance between climatic, geological, morphological and cultural factors of the great volcanic Mount Etna. The homogeneity of the Etnean environment is only an appearance that hides innumerable variables. The geographical location of the volcano allows cool temperatures even if it is located at the south of Italy thanks to the shares altitude reached by the volcano. The sudden change in altitude causes rapid temperature changes and the rapid variation of exposure along the 360┬░ results in a high variability of moisture, temperature, and consequently evolution of soils. Of course, the volcanic soils characterize inextricably the crops produced, enriching them with that savory and energetic flavor which makes them recognizable. The influence of the near Ionian Sea is the source of heavy rains mainly on the eastern side that make flourishing the fruit crops. The continuous volcanic activity, with new lava flows and frequent accumulations of ash, entails that the soils are subject to continuous evolution. These have very different characteristics on different sides so to make an area more suited to a culture rather than another. This is the reason why near Etna some cultures are extremely localized such as lemons along the Ionian coast, medlars and cherries on the east slope at low altitudes, the apples on the east side at high altitudes, the screw on the north-end east of medium height, olive trees on the north-west, strawberry in Maletto, pistachios in Bronte. Certain crops can be grown in a given area and only there. An island in the island then, where "the land changes from palm to palm" as admirably summarize the Etnean people in their territory.
The Etnean pistachio culture is the evidence of the ability of this species to colonize the "sciare" (lands formed by the accumulation of solidified volcanic debris) that would otherwise have been abandoned. The species therefore provides a social and environmental contribution in curbing land abandonment. In the "sciare" of the territory of Bronte, a unique blend of plant and lava soil was created, which continuously fertilized by volcanic ash, favored the production of a fruit that for its taste and aroma, exceeds the remaining production world. Here, in a "sciarosa" and impervious land (the "lochia", how the pistachio orchards are still called), the farmer of Bronte has cleared and transformed the Etna lava flows in an unusual Eden, realizing the miracle of a plant that, born from the rock, produces small and tasty fruits of the finest quality, of a beautiful emerald green color, refined and used in confectionery and cooking for their high organoleptic properties. Today, of the total territory of Bronte (25,000 acres), about 4,000 acres of lava soil are planted with pistachio, with limited arable layer and with steep and rugged inclines, not easily accessible, low exploitable by other specialty crops. On this type of soil, an arboreal species grows spontaneously and is able to adapt, the terebinth ("pistacia terebinthus"), a very hardy and drought resistant plant.
n Bronte and in Sicily in general, it is also known by the common name of "Spaccasassi" for its developed and deep root system, which well adapts itself to rocky soils, or "Scornabeccu" for the galls, formed as goat horns, which develop on its leaves, and it is worth remembering that it comes from the Spanish cornicabra, goat horn, with the same meaning, or even with the name of "Cornucopia" for the hardness of its wood, greater than that of the horn of the buck. This tree species was the luck of Bronte: without it, the pistachio would not grow on the lava. With a very deep root system is, in fact, able to make their way between the crevices of lava rock, growing easily on "sciarosi" lands and difficult to cultivate and also on rock crevices where it makes its way to split it up. It is used by farmers of Bronte since ancient times as rootstock of the pistachio plant, "pistacia true". The pistachio is propagated by grafting in June vegetative bud seedbed of P. terebinthus, in the nursery, in pot or planted, with buds collected from branches of two to three years of age. The terebinth is considered that which provides the best products, resistant to drought and whose plants produce fewer empty fruits. A tree transformation that has to be considered the result of the work of generations of Bronte people, implemented with patience and techniques handed down from father to son, forced to cultivate authentic lava rocks to survive. Devoid of fertile land, most of which were owned by the Duchy and a few others, the farmer of Bronte in almost two centuries of hard work, succeeded with this technique to transform many lava flows in pistachio growing areas, producing fruits of high quality, immediately appreciated in European markets.
The tree of pistachio was born to resist, it is its form to say it, a tangle of twisted branches and gnarled able to cling to the steepest slopes and grow in rocky and thirst soils. It has deep roots and it is no more than six feet tall. The pistachio flowers in April, and it is ready for harvest between September and October. The plants go into production every two years and for this reason the plantations are made in different times and places, so to have a constant harvest each year. For its cultivation, there are two important rules: every eight female plant it is necessary to plant a male; besides, it must also be planted above the wind so that the wind can carry the flower pollen from the males to the pistil of the females.