While there are plenty of things to do in Athens, if you’re visiting the city in September, it’s well worth taking an Athens one-day cruise to the nearby island of Aegina. Aside from its vibrant history and gorgeous scenery, the island is also world-renowned for one thing, its pistachios, considered to be some of the best in the world because of their delicious flavour and aroma.
The Aegina Fistiki Festival
So popular are Aegina’s pistachios worldwide, the island even holds an annual festival every September, the Aegina Fistiki Festival. This 4-day event held in honour of the much-loved pistachio buzzes with a huge array of fun activities such as music, theatre, art and dance for you to enjoy! And of course, you can also indulge in some of the best-tasting pistachio treats on offer at the many stalls!
The festival is back for the 10th consecutive year this summer and will be held on 13-16 September 2018. It is organised by the Municipality of Aegina together with some of the islands local producers. Well worth a day trip from Athens!
The story of Aegina’s pistachios
It’s said that that the cultivation of pistachios on the island began in 1896. Local farmer Nikolao Peroglou planted a variety of nut trees on some of his land. The pistachio tree flourished the best. Sharing cuttings with other Aegina residents, the crop eventually landed on mainland Greece. The European Union declared Aegina’s pistachios a PDO (Protected Designation Origin) product in 1996, based on their regional authenticity and the traditional methods used to produce them. Currently, Greece is the 6th largest producer of pistachios in the world, and first in Europe.
What makes Aegina’s pistachios so delicious?
The island’s dry climate, temperature and soil, as well as the Aegean wind, together create the perfect environment for pollinating and cultivating pistachios. Harvesting usually takes place from mid-August to early September. A combination of all these elements bring about the distinct sweet flavour of this nut. Aegina’s pistachios are used in a variety of savoury and sweet dishes. They’re also enjoyed on their own.
Thousands of years of global history
According to a wealth of historical records, pistachios originated in the Middle East. Said to be around since 7000 BC, they are mentioned in multiple historical and mythological tales. It is said that pistachio trees were planted by Nebuchadnezzar II, the former king of Babylon, in his hanging gardens. The Queen of Sheeba was also said to have banned commoners from growing pistachios for personal use as she regarded pistachios as a royal treat only. During Byzantine times, this delicious fruit nut was also often served as an appetizer, paired with wine.