Following Pistachio Footprints Pistacia vera L. - Cultivation and Culture, Folklore and History, Traditions and Use

Scripta Horticulturae Number 7
Publication date: 
December, 2008
Page count: 
€ 30 not including shipping & handling, 20% discount for ISHS members

The present volume, Following Pistachio Footprints, published in the International Society for Horticultural Science series Scripta Horticulturae originates from the collaboration of a CRA researcher with different international colleagues and with the Region of Sicily under whose responsibility the printing was realized. The book, entirely bilingual in English and Italian, provides information on research, experimentation, cultivation techniques, the origin of the cultivars, the distribution, history traditions and utilization in most of the countries which cultivate the pistachio. The title, "Following Pistachio Footprints" reflects the ancient roots on the knowledge of this plant. Indeed, already the Bible makes a reference to Jacob who sent pistachios, together with other fruits, as a present to the Pharaoh.

Also at the Royal Household of the Queen of ancient Saba, pistachios were a privilege reserved only to her and few selected people. Pistachio production, as well as its consumption, has been continuously rising throughout the years; however, due to their relatively high price deriving from their difficult cultivation (late entering into bearing and tendency to alternate bearing), pistachios are destined only to limited markets. International prices for pistachios to be consumed as a snack are not below 12 €/kg, and those for pistachios destined to processing (for example the green pistachio of Sicily) may even be twice as high. The interest in this fruit has stimulated a flow of importation involving more than 90 countries. Major import is noted from European countries, followed by some States from the Persian Gulf, and China. On contrast to this, only few countries produce the pistachio: Afghanistan, China, Cyprus, Greece, Iran, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Mexico, Pakistan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, United States, Uzbekistan.

The medium annual production is about 450.000 tons of pistachios in shell, 75% of which are produced in Iran and the USA. However, the pistachio deserves more attention than it has received until now, not only because it is a fruit which does not have market problems (which is the first parameter to consider for producers), but also because this plant is able to grow and produce under difficult pedoclimatic conditions. The book presents some examples, like the forests in Afghanistan, some areas m Iran and the pistachio orchards around the Etna in Sicily. And in fact, it is this region, where, apart from 'the peculiar green cotyledons of the Pistachios of Bronte, which let them reach highest market prices everywhere in the world the Etnean pistachio production is the testimony for the species' capability to get established in areas which otherwise would be abandoned. Thus, the pistachio also plays an important social and environmental role by preventing whole territories from depopulation. We all know that the world is in steady evolution and globalization does not leave space for less competitive crops, but monetary profits cannot always and exclusively be the motivation of an investment. This is even more true for those regions where aspects like tradition and culture might also essentially contribute to endogenous development.

Damiano Avanzato and Ignazio Vassallo

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