Pistachio: the green gold of Basilicata

“To the right we have the ruins of Craco and in front of us there is Stigliano.” We are in San Mauro Forte, a small town in the province of Matera perched on a hill overlooking the entire valley of the river Salandrella, surrounded by spectacular olive fields.” Maria Grazia Salerno, the owner of the company Serrealte, tells that is from the neighboring country, Stigliano, that their history of experimentation in growing Pistachios begn.

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“It ‘s there that lived Innocent Colangelo, the pioneer of pistachio cultivation in Basilicata, to whom we owe so much,” she says as we wait for her husband Giuseppe Malacarne to return from New York, where he has established close business relationships with neneighbouringnterested in buying the Lucan green gold, as they name the pistachio which grows began Mauro Forte and Stigliano.

 

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 Maria Grazia and Giuseppe are living in San Mauro Forte, where they cultivate and market pistachios. Like a growing number of young Lucans they are new entrepreneurs who recently approached to agriculture, in a labour market increasingly poor of employment opportunities. So they see in the activity in agriculture a career opportunity and have beg have began to experiment it along side their previous professional path waiting for it to become the main one.

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Maria Grazia studied in Potenza in the Faculty of “Science of Animal Production” and before graduating she started working in Prato, near Florence, where she lived for two years and where she would probably still be if she had not met Giuseppe, er former boyfriend and present husband. “The passion of Giuseppe for San Mauro Forte was too strong,” she says. “So I decided to follow his passion for Basilicata and the desire to continue living in our country who meanwhile was depopulated.” Giuseppe had always had a passion for the countryside. “I started with the production of grain and olives, but the discovery of the pistachio was a true love that has revolutionized our business.”

The history of the innovation launched by Innocenzo Colangelo dates back to the early 90s. He began to cultivate and produce the pistachio almost by accident and quickly turned his idea into a well establishes business reality since more then twenty years. With the virtuous example of Colangelo, Maria Grazia and Giuseppe have decided to invest in pistachios six years ago and then they armed with patience, since the plant gives the first fruits only after several years. Meanwhile, the travels in the Greek Peloponnese and the island of Sicily in Bronte, considered the world capital of pistachio, have enabled them to refine their knowledge on the techniques of cultivation and processing of the fruits.

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Their pistachio orchards are located in the heart of the country of San Mauro Forte near the river Sauro, on the Alte Serre, high hills from which comes the name of the company. After the long wait last year there was the first crop that enabled the launch on the market of various products derived from the fruit and which are used in cooking and baking: the Pistachio Pesto (ideal to garnish a good dish of pasta), pistachio cream (an extract of the fruit ready to be spread on bread), an intermediate product in the manufacture of ice cream, and also grains and flour.

The work of Maria Grazia and Giuseppe is part of a larger and ambitious project, They envision many others young Lucan to be engaged in new activities, starting new agricultural enterprise opportunities for their land and creating those positive contaminations that agriculture needs to be innovative. Their idea is to develop the cultivation of pistachio on a local scale and to give rise to a short chain that includes the transformation. At the moment the most conspicuous part of pistachio production produced in San Mauro Forte is sent to Bronte, while the transformation could represent an important economic resource for the region, providing income for peers and for those who decide to stay in Basilicata and bet on their origins.