Pistachio cultivation, in particular the botanical species pistacia vera, is a Sicilian peculiarity that grows in the uneven soil in Bronte, amidst Mount Etna's lava flows and the forests in the Nebrodi mountains. The pistachio tree is very resistant to drought due to the particular conformation of its twisted, gnarled branches capable of clinging to the steepest of slopes and of growing in rocky, dry, volcanic soil. Its roots grow deep and it is under 6 m tall.
These properties don't require excessive treatments. In fact, often it's not fertilized or irrigated and it's only pruned a couple of times during its unplanted year, which alternates with the crop year.
Two important rules are generally followed for its cultivation. The first is to keep a ratio of 8 to 1 between the female and male plants and the second is to plant the latter upwind so the wind can transport the flower pollen from the males to the pistils of the females. The tree blossoms in June.
A group ritual takes place in Bronte that involves the entire population, including women and children. The product is harvested at the proper degree of ripeness in relation to the production area and climate trends, starting from the second ten days in August to the first ten days in October.
The pistachios are picked one at a time and left to fall into a bag hanging from each person's neck. When the ground is a little more accessible, a large sheet is placed on the ground to ensure the fruit doesn't in fact fall directly on it.
The fruit is husked mechanically to obtain a product with its shell, within 24 hours after it has been picked or it turns brownish and may be contaminated. After it is husked, the product with its shell is dried immediately in direct light or using other drying systems. Pistachio harvesting is difficult and time-consuming: About 20 kg of pistachios can be picked in a day's work.