Olive Oil History


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Olive Oil History

The olive is a fruit central to all Mediterranean cultures.  When you think of olives, you think of olive oil.  Maltese olive oil dates back as far as the Roman era, where areas were set aside in the many villas built across the island specifically for agricultural activities, particularly the pressing and processing of olive oil.  Here, the wooden structures of the olive-presses would be mounted on large rectangular blocks of stone for the pressing to take place.  Historically, olive oil is a cultural feat visible in many aspects of our culture from the trees across our landscape to the names of towns like Zebbug in Gozo, Haz-Zebbug in Malta and iz-Zejtun in Malta.

At this time, much of Malta’s economy was based on the selling of olive oil.  However, the product later died a natural economic death when the Maltese began to eat olives fromSpain,Greece,Italy andNorth Africa.  Yet a man named Sam Cremona decided that he would dedicate his life to maintaining the tradition of Maltese olive oil, starting his own olive garden and being the first man to buy a functional olive press.  He attracted people who wanted to make oil from their own olive trees and continued to work hard to keep the tradition alive.  Consequently, Sam Cremona’s name is familiar across the whole island.

It goes without saying that olives come from the olive tree, an evergreen tree or shrub native to the Mediterranean, Asia andAfrica.  The tree, which is sometimes (though rarely) capable of reaching a height of 8 to 15 metres, is short and squat with a broad crown and a twisted or crooked trunk.  The tree’s leaves are dark green and have a leathery feel.  The creamy white flowers are small and found in branched inflorescences. Malta’s olive tree is a rare kind that slightly differs from the standard, as it has smaller leaves and fruits.  Yet this tree remains an inherent part of the Maltese landscape and some of the olive trees found on the island are almost a thousand years old, or perhaps even older.