Cultivation of pistachio: a long way:

November is in the highest point of the sky and with its unusual and impressive autumn sun ,we come along with Cristian, a small-scale  pistachio producer. When we reach to his point,  he  is getting a piece of land ready for irrigating because  rain has not watered his field for a few weeks, and this worrying drought  is not likely to leave us shortly.

In the plot of land where we are talking to Cristian, there are 103 pistachio nut trees which will have to be grafted / budded in other of their same variety, but a more robust one, after 2 years more or less. Once they are together four years more  will be necessary to obtain about 10kg from a pistachio nut tree. This is a necessary process because the pistachio plant is so weak and needs to get feed from a bigger tree of the same variety but stronger ,to bear fruit. This kind of tree is called rootstock  and the specie that Cristian is watering this morning is called turpentine tree.

The graft has to be done carefully and even so, some pistachio nut trees will not manage to shelter and grow the bud sticks.  To achieve our goal we need to nip an horizontal « H » shaped   incision at the height of the bud of the rootstock,  which we will move with a knife blade afterwards  in order to form a small vertical rectangular entry to graft the plant. Finally it has to be wrapped to be secured until it is strong enough by itself.  Besides, both will be tied to a cane until they are able to stand without help.

This is one of the reasons for the pistachio high cost (7€/kg). Another one is the lack of existing supplies nowadays.  It has to be taken into account that in relation with other products like almonds, pistachio is relatively a new crop in our country because it has just been with us for some twenty years. The ecologic pistachio is also called « green gold »  what explains by itself that we are talking about a great value product at all levels.

Currently, the Autonomic Community of Castilla la Mancha is leading the production and research on pistachio. In fact the agro-environmental research centre El Chaparrillo, in Ciudad Real, is the most important one in the farming of this priceless nut in Spain. It is a reference centre about cultivation methods, graft process improvements and the maintenance of rootstocks plantations.

As I say goodbye to Cristian I think that the only way to profit with pistachio is determination and perseverance. It is necessary to spend a lot of time to get yield of pistachio production, which show us the incalculable value of the direct work with the land, the huge treasure that we get from the aged and tanned farmers’ hands, plenty of wisdom in every crack.

As Cristian’s hands tell us, it is a very difficult and meritorious work to watch such a long time passing by between the moment a dream is born and the opportunity to taste it as a snack.