Olive trees and Malta have a special connection that goes back thousand years. In fact some olive trees found in Malta are very old, some of them even 600 to 1,000 years old! Olive trees were introduced to our Islands in antiquity due to their economic importance. Formerly, the Olive tree was extensively cultivated, namely to supply food (olives) and for oil production, as indicated by the place names HaŻ-Żebbuġ (which means olives) and Żejtun (which means olive oil).
The Olive tree is an evergreen tree which is short and squat, having a broad crown, which rarely reaches 8 to 15m in height. Its trunk is usually gnarled and twisted. Its linear dark green leaves are leathery and whitish underneath, owing to a dense covering of short hairs which help reduce water loss. Its creamy white flowers are small and found in branched inflorescences.
The Olive tree became naturalised and today is considered to be part of the Maltese landscape. It is protected through the Maltese law and permits are required from the relevant authorities to prune, fell or uproot such trees. The Malta Environment & Planning Authority (MEPA) is also helping to protect communities based on Olive trees through the designation of Special Areas of Conservation, such as Buskett (one of the few woodland areas in Malta, which located in the fertile valley of Wied il-Luq in Siġġiewi).
There are various types of olive trees. Some of the trees produce very small olives, which makes the olive ideal for olive oil. This is simply because the oil is produced from the seed (also known as the ‘pit’ or ‘rock’) and not from the olive itself.
How is extra vergin Olive Oil made?
Extra virgin olive oil in Malta is made simply by crushing olives and extracting the olive juice. It is the only cooking oil that is made without the use of chemicals and industrial refining. Extra virgin olive oil must have no taste “defects”. It needs to have a delicious flavour of fresh olives and achieve higher scores in lab tests for its chemical composition than other grades.
Olive Oil as Souvenirs
So our suggestion is that if you want to give an authentic souvenir from Malta, instead of giving a mug or any other standard souvenir, we suggest that you give a bottle of olive oil. This will make your relatives taste Malta, literally. Maltese olive oil can either be bought from supermarkets or else directly from farmers.