TAKE a walk around the Ronda area these days and you’ll notice a series of bright green trees springing up everywhere.
Look closely and you’ll see them bearing some unusual yellow reddish fruits in September… well these are pistachios, most commonly seen in parts of Iran, California and Turkey.
Thanks to a big demand worldwide, they are now becoming a popular cash crop for the inland Andalucia mountains, in particular around Ronda.
Many plantations have gone in over the last few years and now, finally, Ronda has one of the first processing plants in Andalucía.
Set up by an expat Dutchman, Ronda Pistachios, sits in a wonderful location surrounded by 15 hectares of pistacho trees.
Officially opened this september by the mayor of Ronda, it will be capable of processing pistachios for not just the immediate area but the needs of farmers from a few hours by car around.
“We planted our first pistachios six years ago,” explains Henk van Dalen, who has had a home in the Ronda area for two decades.
Alongside his Spanish business partner, Joaquín Becerra, a local agronomist, the pair are developing the business entirely sustainably.
Our vision is to develop future pistachio growing in Andalucía with respect for the environment, by improving the soil in innovative ways and by sharing information.
“These will be 100% organic pistachios and we expect to be up to full speed in the next few years. We now have 16 ha and we are planting another 65 ha. We will then care for 16.000 trees pistachio trees,” adds the softly-spoken 71-year-old, who divides his time between
Holland, Spain and Africa.
Thinking about Pistachio growing started in 2014 when Henk needed to find a project for an estate he had bought in the Los Prados area of Ronda. A licence was needed in order to renovate a farmhouse.
Together Henk and Joaquin decided that planting pistachios was a good thing for the “camarca de Ronda”. Pistachios make it possible to earn more from agriculture than almonds or olives provide. Starting a new crop in the region, a sustainable crop, good for the farmer and the environment is exiting too.
On the other side it takes 10 years for the pistachio trees to be fully productive,” he explains.
There are currently five main types of pistachio trees in the area and a crop fetches around eight to nine euros per kilo.
“We are working to develop pistachio growing in Andalucia. We like to share our knowledge and invite growers from within an hour or two from our plant in Los Prados to use our plant to process their pistachio crop.
“We can help in terms of advice about anyone’s local climate and soil type and select varieties that will do well,” he continues.
Coincidentally, the well travelled Dutchman had actually visited Kerman, the pistachio growing region of Iran, back in the 1970s as a student.
“I was 25 and studying biology in Amsterdam and two times headed out that way to travel. Since then I did not forget Iran.”
It is interesting to note that a delegate of farmers are set to visit Ronda from Iran, primarily to find mutual interests in the pistachio culture..
“I know we have started something that grows organically and one day pistachio growing will provide Ronda with some important new products: The pistachio nuts: unpeeled as a snack, peeled for use in restaurants, as a paste for bakeries and pistache oil for the kitchen.
Any farmer interested in pistachio growing is invited to contact us for information at: www.rondapistachos.com