Today, the island of Aegina and the region around Megara are the traditional epicentres of pistachio cultivation in Greece; with more recent production also taking place in Phthiotis, Boeotia and the Aegean island of Euboea (Evia). The pistachios of Aegina are considered the best and have attained preeminence in Greek marketplaces and in popular preference; they are referred to as fystiki Aeginis (pronounced: fee-STEE-kee ay-YEE-nees). However, I have found that the Megarian pistachios are equally good and they do not command the same premium in price, even though Megara is quite close to Aegina. Greece is the largest producer of pistachios in Europe and the sixth largest exporter of pistachios to the world; the bulk of global pistachio cultivation takes place in Iran.
So, as I was not off flipping rocks in the nearby river to find and collect crabs in my grandfather’s cap (my favorite village pastime), I was nosing about her feet and right in my grandma’s way no matter which way she turned. At some point, the old woman hastily plucked a branch of what looked like a bunch of unripe grapes from a small tree and handed them to me, instructing me to eat them and be still.
Now, I cannot say that I was immediately taken with the flavour as it was actually rather “green and somewhat piny” (which is the best way I can describe it), but there was something to the texture which made it amenable to my young palate; also, I liked the way I had to pop the inner seed from its immature outer shell and right into my mouth, just as my grandmother had shown me how to do it.
To this day, I have a thing for pistachios in any form. Though, I have to admit, my all-time favourite pistachio preparation remains the spoon sweet which is a specialty of the island of Aegina. Earlier this evening, my wife and I consumed the last two spoonfuls of my zealously guarded hoard of the stuff. We still have some of the roasted variety from Aegina to carry us through to the New Year, but they will not last much beyond the next couple days. Thus, all good things come to an end, in order to make room for more good things to replace them in the future.
Cleaning out the cupboards, pantry, and fridge for the New Year, I leave you with that for now.
Pánta Kalá! (Always Be Well),
Greek Food Recipes and Reflections
Copyright © 2008, Sam Sotiropoulos. All Rights Reserved.