The 'pistachio island' is losing its identity. Aegina, only one hour by boat from Athens, attracts tourists probably more than pistachios lovers. Although its culture is recent compared to the Sicilian Bronte, Aegina pistachio is officially protected by the European Union since 1994. The concern is that agricultural land worth little compared to real estate speculation. Another problem is that some loaded Athenians buy houses and a beautiful garden with plenty of pistachio trees - they know not even a word about pistachios. These newcomers do not really know how to get by, stay lazy or cut the trees.
Paul-Henri Coulon produces pistachios for 24 years. He is French, has arrived here as a photographer. He married and settled on his wife homeland.
It handles 600 pistachio trees. The pistachio culture is not simple. Henri-Paul Coulon produces only between a ton and a ton and a half every year. And every two year the trees give nothing...
He runs the field not only organic but his way of producing is the most extreme handicraft you can find here.
You can see some pipes in the orchard but they do not serve every year. The manual harvest is scheduled every June. Pistachios dry in the sun on the roof of the building, from where we took the previous picture. The drying process takes 3 or 4 days. Here we can't find oven to speed up the thing. Then the raw nuts are stored with the utmost care.
The roasting is done according to orders. That is to say, clients eat freshly roasted pistachios and not roasted for 6 months. The operation takes place for an hour and a half in a stuff... There is no other word. Originally it's a washing machine. Paul-Henri Coulon builds himself all his tools.
For the preservation and taste, industrial pistachios makers add citric acid. Our man prefers to use real lemon. Its roasted and seasoned pistachios are unlike anything. I have the impression of eating an original pistachio, never having eaten pistachio before, having undergone a "pistachio deflowering". You want to eat all the box. But our brain reassures us: you can go !
Paul-Henri Coulon prefer them raw but there is a big concern about their conservation. It's difficult to prevent small worms and other critters to break the shell and eat the fruit. For those who are lucky enough to find these raw pistachios, as we were, let me give a recipe. Open the pistachios, take a bottle of wine as a rolling pin and gently crushed before enjoying with pasta, olive oil and lemon. Heaven exists.
Where can we find these pistachios in France? There was a time they were available at La Pistacherie, a chain of stores without interest but huge prices. In Aegina Henri-Paul sells pistachios for 15 euros a kilo, in the store it's four times more expensive. But now there is some row between producer and distributor...
Rather than dwell on what did not work, the best solution is to join serious people like L'Epicerie Grecque (32 euros a kilo). Maybe soon they will offer the new Henri-Paul's idea ? Some candied pistachios in syrup prepared with sugar and pistachios whose shell is not yet formed - a very traditional recipe.
Otherwise, the best option remains to go to Aegina, like we did.