If Joseph Attard, the Mayor of Zejtun, is at the forefront to regenerate the ancient tradition of olive cultivation in the South of Malta, on the other side of the Island, in the North, there is Sam Cremona, known as Sammy the man who saved the olive trees.
It must have been love at first sight for Sammy with the Pearl of Malta! A passion that encouraged him to let go his job as diamond trader and dedicate himself to another precious thing, the olive oil.
Joe Attard told us in this interview about the story of the olive tree in Malta, click here
Why is the olive oil so precious? First of all, for its organoleptic properties. This beautiful green to gold oil is one of the richest in oleic acid (about 62%). The olive oil is a monounsaturated fat composed almost entirely of triglycerides, the most abundant long chain of monounsaturated fatty acids present in our body.
Even if the oldest civilization of the Mediterranean didn’t know about the scientific properties of the oil, surely they appreciated it as a food with multiple virtues. Olive oil is an effective antioxidant, rich in Vitamin E. It is fundamental for the body growth, prevents disorders of the arteries and heart, lowers the level of cholesterol in the blood and it is also an adjuvant in resistance to infection.
The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans also used it for cosmetic purposes, for example to nourishing and soothing the skin under the heavy metal armature and as combustion material for lamps.
Moreover, for Malta the Olive tree is
a piece of Mediterranean Heritage to revive.
I got to know Cremona thanks to my curiosity about the Romans in Malta.
In this article, we met the rescue diver Mark Gatt, who found a proof of the St Paul’s Shipwreck at the Salina Bay, in Qawra, click here.
During the Romans time, the Salina Bay was the main port of the North East of Malta, while Marsaxlokk was the one for the South East.
This is confirmed by the many Roman amphorae found at the Salina Bay. Likewise, there is another sign of the Roman tradition to produce olive oil hosted in the Chapel of San Paul Milqi, in Burmarrad. I’m talking about the Olive Oil presses found inside the villa of the Roman Governor Publius, now San Paul Milqi. So it is probable that those amphorae where keeping the Maltese oil to export it or as a reserve of combustible. Actually, there are no proofs that the Governor Publius lived there, but the olive presses are more than enough proofs to indicate that the site was an agricultural villa located on a gentle slope of a fertile valley, overlooking the harbour.
At this point I thought that was the time to discover more about the olive trees in the North, where are they? How it is possible that from a flourish cultivation during the Romans not even one is left nowadays?
So I found Sammy Cremona in his estate in Wardija, a village on a little hill part of the St Paul’s Bay Council. Cremona told me that he launched the Primo Project on 2002.
Why the name Primo Project? Primo stands for Project for the revival of the Indigenous Maltese Olive. This was a great discovery for me! Thanks to Cremona I discovered that Malta not only used to produce olive oil for the Phoenicians and then for the Romans but also there are two indigenous variety of olives:
- The white olive, called the Maltese Pearl
- The bidni, from which probably takes the name the village of Bdinja close to Wardija.
Until recently, the white Maltese olive was only visible in books. In one particular reference during the reign of Grand Master Manuel Pinto da Fonseca, a chef mentions the Perla Maltese in a rabbit stew recipe.
Sammy Cremona discovered one tree of the Maltese Pearl in the Zebbug village (name that means wild olive) and from there he started in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture to grafting seedlings from it.
He showed me the little plant ready to be planted.
The Cremona one is a proper mission to re-establish the olive oil in the Maltese culture, which went lost after the arrival of the Byzantine, then the Arabs and replaced with butter after the English government.
It was an exciting morning at his grove. Some French tourists and I enjoyed Sammy explanation of the cold pressing process, the culinary use of aromatic herbs, as well as the tasting of a wonderful bruschetta, a lovely slice of Maltese ftira bread dressed with excellent olive oil and herbs.
I can suggest two great books written by Matty Cremona, Sammy’s wife, who is passionate about cooking and the Maltese countryside.
This couple is a fantastic binomial of passion for nature and for their heritage!
Thanks to Cremona family for what you are doing in the safeguarding and development of the cultivation of the Maltese olive tree, the ancient Romans would be proud of you and certainly, the future generations will benefit from the precious Maltese olive oil!
To discover more about the olive oil in South of Malta, click here
EXPLORE, EXPERIENCE, ENJOY MALTA WITH FLORA THE EXPLORER 😉
For More info about Cremona Olive Oil: http://wardija.tripod.com/
Source of the quotation Times of Malta