Years ago, early in our Greek adventures, I was given ‘pistachio leaves’ as a tsipouro mezze. They were amazing. Maybe it was the moment, the sunshine, the tsipouro, but it was one of the most delicious things I had tasted. And because I was told so firmly they were pistachio leaves, I have never questioned it. I confess I didn’t even know they were called tsitsiravla pickles (wild pistachio).
However, since owning pistachio trees and knowing how precious they are, I have often wondered why you would sacrifice so many young shoots. Would you lose the crop? Oddly enough, I’ve never questioned it.
Tsitsiravla Pickle – A Pelion Speciality
Last weekend, a dear friend asked me if, as a longstanding Pelion resident and the Wild Epicurean 😀 , I had harvested (foraged) my wild pistachio leaves and made the pickle for tsipouro. After a fair amount of Google searching (translation), I finally understood which tree it was, Pistacia terebinthus. The trees grow all over Greece but only use the leaves for the tsitsiravla pickle here in Pelion. A Pelion speciality. The Pistacia terebinthus are everywhere, unlike the precious real pistachio tree. So exciting! I’d discovered the source of the fantastic mezze.
Pick Early Before the Leaves Unfurl
So I’ve made the tsitsiravla pickle (wild pistachio) or pistakia. I added a few peppercorns and chilli. 🙃 My leaves were harvested a little late and had started to unfurl. You are only meant to pick them as young shoots – max 3-4cm. I won’t show them to my neighbour! We will enjoy my jar in secret. My only defence is that I saw photos similar to my pickle. So perhaps not everyone is quite as strict on the unfurling thing.
I particularly love the idea of this pickle because the trees grow everywhere. It is sustainable, and it’s unique to Pelion. Remember the rules of the forager; never leave a trace, take what you need and be very sure of what you pick.
Given the frightening rise in the cost of living, discovering local delicacies like this is a joy. A real eye-opener to the many other possibilities I still have yet to find here in Pelion.
Tsitsiravla Pickles (Wild Pistachio) – Tsipouro Mezze
Mix Tsitsiravla Pickles into a salad, and enjoy as a mezze with tsipouro or ouzo. I believe they would also sit very happily alongside a plate of saucisson with a pastis.🇫🇷
And on a final note with more fun facts for Pistacia terebinthus, a coffee-like drink is made from the fruit, soap from the oils and gum from the bark.
Recipe adapted from agriamanitaria.gr @nikos.baxes.