An important part of the project setting up the Mediterranean olive oil academy in Malta will be an important emphasis on promoting and educating our clients about the history and current situation regarding Maltese olive oil.
Olive trees were once common all over Malta and in Roman times there were many large and important olive oil producing estates established on the Island, and small amounts of the olive oil was exported to other countries in the empire at that time.
But with the decline of the Roman empire the production of olive oil and cultivation of olive trees gradually became less important and with the introduction of other crops such as cotton and oranges the production of olive oil on the island of Malta ceased.
Between the time that the Romans left Malta and up to the 20th Century there were still a small number of olive trees on the Island but the olives they produced were only consumed as part of the peasant diet with bread or simple dishes.
It was only in the late 20th century that interest in the propagation of olive trees on Malta and the production of olive oil resumed, also the study and the reintroduction of the indigenous Maltese olive varieties became increasing important.
There are several cultivars of the European olive and two important varieties of Maltese olives, the Maltija and the Bidjina, both producing very high quality olive oil. The Bidnija cultivar, which is believed to be the oldest Maltese olive cultivar produces oil of excellent quality rich in polyphenols and exhibits high tolerance to environmental stress such as salinity and drought, it also demonstrates resistance to pests such as the olive fruit fly.
The Maltese cultivars have been identified by the DNA profiles and while many different varieties of olive trees have been imported into the Island from Italy in most cases they have not proved successful as the Italian trees do not has the resilience of the native Maltese varieties.
So increasingly important is the work to only reintroduce Maltese cultivars on the Island and several projects and teams now work on this exciting stage of the history of olives and olive oil in Malta.
The new Mediterranean olive oil academy that will be open from the late spring will bring a new focus on Maltese olive oil as well as oils from across the Mediterranean, and the latest updates about dates and courses will be in our blog next month.