Monday, June 10, 2013

Pistachios at Marullo

Today was our first Italian sunrise, and the view couldn't have been better. The horizon turned from blue to gold casting rays of sunlight onto the coast of Catania. Our first breakfast consisted of breads, pastries, and of course strong Italian coffee. Once we were finished with our fuel for the day, we rounded up for our first adventure to the pistachio factory. The drive there didn't disappoint. It seemed like the mountains never ended and no cliff was too steep to lay down a foundation. From farmland to urban areas, the Italian culture never ceases to amaze me. Pulling up to the pistachio factory, we were greeted with the smell of fresh roasting pistachios. Some claimed it smelled like funnel cake cooking, but to me the scent was so wonderful I couldn't compare it to anything else. If I said the weather was pleasant it would be an understatement. The air was dry and the sun was warm, thankfully we took notes outside to enjoy the wonderful weather. Our instructor was very kind and knowledgable about the pistachio tree and I learned a few interesting facts. He stood under the shade of a single pistachio tree which he told us was about 180 years old. He also told us about the color of the pistachio pith, the pith in Italy happens to be a lime green color compared to California's yellowish green colored pith. Not only do Italy's pistachio vary in color, the actual pistachio is overall much sweeter than California's. Because of this, pistachio paste is more commonly used in the foundations of gelato and other sweet confections. Here in Bronte, they make sure the nuts are harvested by hand as opposed to the mechanical harvesting overseas. The overall quality of the pistachios in Bronte is much better because of the mixtures of the black, rocky volcanic soil. The last interesting fact I learned about pistachios is the fact that the crops are very delicate. It is best for them to grow in Italy's dry climate because of the low humidity level. Once humidity becomes too high, the chance for a carcinogenic mold within the pistachio becomes higher. There is nothing anyone can do to reverse this, basically the damage is done and someone's salary is devastated. After grabbing a few handfuls of fresh pistachios we were on our way out to eat some fresh pistachio gelato. Overall, this trip has been very interesting. The knowledge and kindness of the locals and the amount of information we receive are impeccable. Who knew there was so much to learn about pistachios!
-Jenna Rios

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