Nuts about Aegina!

If you've known me long it will come as no surprise that we had an early summer dash to Greece, this time to Aegina, an island in the Saronic Gulf, happily unspoilt by mass tourism.

Remarkably for a small island (population around 13,000) Aegina is the world's sixth largest producer of pistachio nuts!

Pistachio trees have been cultivated here since 1860 thriving in the dry soil when most other plants failed. In fact most of the vines were eventually replaced with pistachio trees.

Owing to the well organised co-operative founded in 1947, which sets prices and offers distribution and processing facilities, even smaller growers, who maybe have a few trees in their back garden or field are able to prosper from the Pistachio harvest as well as the larger suppliers.

All along the harbourside there are stalls and cafes selling pistachio nuts and products including a traditional sweet liqueur, nut butters, pistachio pesto, pistachio brittle, pistachios in honey and many other treats.

In September of every year, just after the pistachio harvest, is the Aegina Fistiki Festival attracting around 20,000 visitors to the island. Now in its eighth year, it's an extravagant four-day event to promote and support the cultivation of pistachios.

When we visited in June the nuts were just beginning to ripen, with the outer shells turning from green to a rosy-red.

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