Olive trees in Cyprus
On the outskirts of Cyprus’ charming and historic village of Anogyra, Cypriots set aside one day out of the year to celebrate the olive tree.
Cypriots drove in from all over the country to join the town’s two hundred residents at the Oleastro Olive Park and olive oil production center. The small whitewashed building and property is thirty minutes outside of the western Cypriot city of Limassol and it overlooks a vast, beautiful and rocky landscape dotted with olive trees.
Oleastro is known for its small olive oil museum and educational park which displays the various varieties of Cypriot olive trees and traditional olive oil production equipment. It has become a town landmark since it opened in 2003 and for the past four years it has been the site of the Olive Tree Day Festival.
“We had the vision for this park and for this festival to bring the country even closer to the olive tree which plays a central role in our lives, “says Lina Ellina, founder of Oleastro Olive Oil, an award-winning organic extra-virgin olive oil. Oleastro organized the first Olive Tree Day Festival in 2009.
The event featured a Cypriot food buffet, food tastings, traditional Cypriot dancing and live music. Chefs demonstrated their skills while incorporating olive oil into their recipes. Traditional savory pies made with olive oil and olives called, eliopitas, were given to attendees at the entrance. Various exhibits educated children about the olive oil industry.
“Here our children familiarize themselves with the history, culture and importance of olive oil to Cyprus and that’s a big reason I believe it’s a great success,” added Ellina.
Cypriot olive oil producer Lina Ellina
Sophocles Aletraris, the Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources of Cyprus says he has been a supporter of Olive Tree Day and spoke at the event. “The tree with its presence, contributes to the preservation of the natural environment and a link to our rich cultural heritage. The olive tree, synonymous with the Mediterranean and its culture, is a symbol of peace and wisdom. Cypriots have been producing olive products from antiquity and they play an important role in our diet and daily life, as part of various cultural and religious events and daily activity,” said Aletraris.
Aletraris also pointed out that Olive Tree Day exemplifies the importance of olive oil to the country’s economy and that olive oil comprises of the largest portion of organic farming in Cyprus. “In an era characterized by strong competition, the promotion of agricultural production in our country and ensuring quality are of prime importance. With the diversification of production, sensory evaluation of olive oil and olive products standardization, Cyprus is providing a significant competitive advantage to producers.”
Cyprus Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources Sophocles Aletraris
The total area in Cyprus under olive cultivation today is about 8,000 hectares with approximately 2.5 million productive trees.
“Every country that produces its own olive oil has its own distinct flavors. What I think is important is how the trees are cultivated and how the olives are pressed,” said Ellina who added she is the first Cypriot producer to offer olive oil that is unfiltered and cold-pressed. “Olive Tree Day is meant to send a message that we understand the value it brings to Cyprus and, as an exporter of Cypriot olive oil, I am representing the quality we are capable of.”