The Olive Tree belongs to the species called “evergreen”, which means that the tree does not lose its leaves during the winter period. Its size rarely exceeds 10 metres and it is native to the Mediterranean region.
Characteristics: The tree’s trunk is gnarled and twisted and its leaves are leathery with a pointed tip. They are glossy on the upper part, and silvery-white on the underside. Its flowers are creamy-white and found in small clusters at the end of its branches. The Olive Tree is renowned for its green oval fruit which turns black when mature.
Olives are widely used in gastronomy, as ingredients in salads, pizza or as condiments in other dishes. The olives can also be pressed for oil and besides for edible purposes, it has several medicinal uses such as antiseptic, laxative and sedative. Although it grows at a slow rate, it is resistant to drought, disease and fire. This tree is considered as one of the typical plant species in our island and one can see some old specimens in San Anton Gardens and Lija. Olive trees are protected as many understand its need to be conserved, especially when mature.
Olive oil was very important for the Maltese economy, and during the Roman Era, the village of Burmarrad and other nearby villages were very productive in this oil pressing industry. Large stone-hewn presses are the evidence that we have today. Luckily enough, many farmers and agriculturalists value the olive pressing industry and have taken this so close to their hearts, that they have started to manufacture olive oil from the olive trees they have in their fields. The village of Dingli, also has some farmers who dedicate themselves to the art of oil pressing.
Biblical Context: There are numerous references to the olive tree and its oil in the Bible. Here are some references for you to think about:
- (Leviticus 2:4) “If you bring a grain offering baked in an oven, it is to consist of the finest flour; either thick loaves made without yeast and with olive oil mixed in or thin loaves made without yeast and brushed with olive oil”;
- (Leviticus 9:4) “and an ox and a ram for a fellowship offering to sacrifice before the LORD, together with a grain offering mixed with olive oil. For today the LORD will appear to you.”
- (Deuteronomy 11:14) “then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil”;
- (1 Kings 6:31) “For the entrance to the inner sanctuary he made doors out of olive wood, that were one fifth of the width of the sanctuary”;
- (1 Samuel 10:1) “Then Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, ‘Has not the LORD anointed you ruler over his inheritance?”
As we have seen in some of the above Biblical references, the olive fruit was mainly used for its oil that was used in lamps for illumination purposes, to anoint and consecrate, as facial oil for dry skin and in the manufacturing of soap. Its wood was also used to make small furniture. We can never underestimate the importance of Olive Trees, as as we have witnessed, they are used for many purposes.
It would be very useful to plant olive trees in our yards, gardens and terraces, so as to teach future generations about its immeasurable value to olden and present day societies alike. In addition, olive trees are also pleasing to the eye and provide aesthetic beauty to our homes and gives them a more cosy Maltese trait.