Pistachio plants begin to produce some fruit after about ten years from grafting. Each plant produces from 5 to 15 kilograms of “tignosella” (this is the name given to the small and dried fruit) with a maximum of 20-30 kg.
In the years of non-harvesting, the even years, “of discharge” for growers, it is done the so-called green pruning (the buds in growth phase are removed by hand). The green pruning is a tradition which is lost in the mists of time, probably dating back to the Arab domination. It is handed down from father to son without interruption. Testimony of a culture, the farmer one, according to which, thanks to the “rest“, the plant absorbs from the lava soil the necessary substances to produce a fruit richer in aromas and full of unmistakable flavors.
Every two years ( uneven years) more than 30 thousand quintals of pistachios are harvested, representing just 1% of the world production but, for Bronte, the most significant economic element both for the cultivated area involved and for the relevant production value.
Also because of the impervious and steep environment in which the plant is cultivated, the danger of dispersion of the fruit among the “sciarelle” of the “lochi“, the harvest involves a considerable employment of expensive labor. It is still done in a totally manual way, directly from the trees, dropping the fruit into a container carried on the shoulder, or shaking the branches to collect the fruit on cloths spread at the foot of the plants or, in some cases, even with the use of an upside- down umbrella. A quick game of patient hands stained by the abundant resin of the branches, a long-awaited feast, and a hard work, to which with different tasks takes part all the family, women, grandparents, and children included.
After the harvesting, the fruit, by mechanical rubbing, is “shaken” (separated from the hull – the leathery involucre covering the fruit) and dried for 3-4 days under the sun in wide open spaces in front of the farmhouses.
In this way is obtained the pistachio in shell, locally called Tignosella, preserved by the producers, waiting to sell it, in dark and dry rooms. After two years of work and expenses, the hard work of the producer is over. Due to the price being too low, the expensive labor or a poor harvest, it is often not possible to recover the great use of physical and financial energies.
In 2000, for example, 60 percent of the product was lost to adverse weather conditions.