Pruning thy olive tree

Give Me An Olive!

97% of the world's olive cultivation is concentrated in the Mediterranean. No wonder olives are a common staple in the Mediterranean kitchen.

The olive tree (Olea europaea L.) is one of the oldest species of domesticated trees and the second most important oil fruit crop cultivated worldwide. We visit the outskirts of Rabat to meat Joe and Andreana. They are proud of their little grove of olive trees which they attend to with love and attention.

“Maltese land, with its sun and soil, produces very good quality olive oil. I believe Cyprus and us have the best olives. It is lovely when all the trees are laden during August and September.

At the moment I am pruning the olive trees. This means trimming and collecting the dried branches for preparation to be used in subsequent years. A few weeks prior, around mid-September we harvest the olives. It takes us a fortnight from dawn till dusk.

We spread the nets and shake the olives from the branches. Ideally up to 24 hours later, so that the oil in the olives do not deteriorate, we take them to the presser to extract the oil. This year the olive trees were dry and the harvest was small since we did not have rain when needed.

I started growing olive trees about 16 years after I visited Tunisia, since there is always something to learn from travel. But I have always been a farmer after my father had ended my schooldays to help in the fields.

The best meal is a warm ftira with oil, a couple of olives and some tomatoes…nothing beats that!

I have 13 varieties of olives on the land. When it is all amalgamated I produce a blend of tastes. The ones I am harvesting right now are called “Bella di Spagna or Sevilljana”, they are very hard, table olives. We then soak them in brine – we mix a cup of sea salt with 10 to 12 cups of water.” – Joe and Andreana Cortis

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