Celebrating the Fruit of An Ancient Tree in Montenegro

The Old Olive Tree in southern Montenegro is thought to be the oldest in Europe and the third-oldest in the world.
Nov. 9, 2021
Nedjeljko Jusup

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The adage that age is only a num­ber is more appro­pri­ate for an olive tree than for humans.

The olive tree lives and bears fruit incom­pa­ra­bly longer than peo­ple, and nowhere is this more appar­ent than at the Old Olive Tree in south­ern Montenegro.

This gift and the prince’s inter­est in Montenegrin olive oil pro­vides added value for pro­duc­ers and is another beau­ti­ful story that will encour­age the oil’s sale at much higher prices.- Ćazim Alković, pres­i­dent, Bar Olive Growers Association

She just turned 2,245 years old,” said Ćazim Alković, pres­i­dent of the Bar Olive Growers Association. Along with its focus on olive cul­ti­va­tion and oil pro­duc­tion, the asso­ci­a­tion takes spe­cial care of what they claim is the old­est olive tree in Europe and the third-old­est in the world.

See Also: Millenary Trees

Despite its age, the tree con­tin­ues to pro­duce fruit and 2021 was no excep­tion. We have just har­vested 101 kilo­grams,” said Alković, who could not hide his sat­is­fac­tion.

He added this year’s yield pro­motes the impor­tance of timely har­vest­ing and the olive-grow­ing tra­di­tion of the local Porum region, in which Bar is located.

Alković was not the only per­son cel­e­brat­ing this year’s yield either.

Aleksandar Stijović, Montenegro’s Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management, joined local olive grow­ers and offi­cials – includ­ing Mayor Dušan Raičević and the Milena Božović, pres­i­dent of the munic­i­pal assem­bly – to cel­e­brate the con­tin­ued fruit­ful­ness of the tree.

Without timely har­vest­ing and pro­cess­ing, there is no qual­ity oil,” Stijović said. We must for­ever aban­don bad habits such as col­lect­ing over­ripe and fallen fruits from the ground.”

Along with cel­e­brat­ing the har­vest, the min­is­ter took his oppor­tu­nity with the grow­ers and local offi­cials to empha­size the impor­tance of olive oil qual­ity.

There is still a prob­lem among con­sumers and pro­duc­ers in Montenegro in rec­og­niz­ing the smell and taste of extra vir­gin olive oil.

It must meet the basic cri­te­ria of fruiti­ness, bit­ter­ness and spici­ness,” said Stijović, who also empha­sized the cul­tural sig­nif­i­cance of the Old Olive Tree in Mirovica, which he added gave birth to love and rec­on­ciled peo­ples.

Despite more favor­able weather for the 2020 olive har­vest, the Old Olive Tree pro­duced sub­stan­tially more olives this year. In 2020, farm­ers har­vested 86 kilo­grams of fruit, obtain­ing almost six kilo­grams of oil in the process.

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Olive oil produced from millenary trees in Montenegro

Last year, we did not har­vest the entire olive tree, but left one large branch, to record an arti­cle about the har­vest for National Geographic, so this year the amount is higher,” Alković said.

But that branch, on which we then left fruit for a long time, did not bear fruit at all this year,” he added. This is a con­fir­ma­tion of our efforts to har­vest the fruits as early as pos­si­ble when they are mature so that the tree is free and ready’ to bear fruit next year as well.”

As part of their cel­e­bra­tion of the tree’s vital­ity, the Bar Olive Growers Association said some of the oil from this year’s har­vest will be avail­able for locals to taste. The rest will be packed in small bot­tles and boxes.

However, the oil is not avail­able for pur­chase and will instead be used by the Bar Olive Growers Association to help pro­mote the region and coun­try.

It is not divided, and it can­not be bought,” Alković said. There is no price, and we will use it for pro­mo­tional pur­poses of Bar and Montenegrin olive grow­ing.”

Unlike many of the country’s com­mer­cial olive oils – data from the International Olive Council show that Montenegro pro­duced about 500 tons of olive oil in the pre­vi­ous crop year – the Old Olive Tree’s oil will be spe­cially pack­aged and labeled in styl­ish glass bot­tles.

Alković said the pack­ag­ing is designed to pro­mote oils from mil­lenary olive trees. Oils obtained from trees older than 2,000 years receive a gold label, and oils from trees older than 1,000 years receive a sil­ver label. Each bot­tle is con­tained in a sep­a­rate wooden box crafted from dried olive wood.

He added that the asso­ci­a­tion sells many of these mil­lenary oils for high prices at spe­cial auc­tions and directly to exclu­sive restau­rants and hotels.

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Prince Charles received millenary olive oil on a visit to Montenegro.

However, oils from the Old Olive Tree are des­tined for an even more select audi­ence. One bot­tle was given to Prince Charles, the next in line for the British throne.

This gift and the prince’s inter­est in Montenegrin olive oil pro­vides added value for pro­duc­ers and is another beau­ti­ful story that will encour­age the oil’s sale at much higher prices,” Alković said.

The asso­ci­a­tion also plans to send a sam­ple of oil from this year’s har­vest to the 2022 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition to com­pete with thou­sands of other sam­ples.

The costs of par­tic­i­pa­tion in rela­tion to the addi­tional affir­ma­tion of Montenegrin olive grow­ing are neg­li­gi­ble, Alković said and would serve as a nod to the Montenegrin dias­pora in the United States, many of whom have their olive roots” in Bar.

According to research from Istanbul University’s wood anatomy and tree ring research lab, there are 26 trees between the age of 500 and 1,000 years in Bar and Ulcinj, which sits a few kilo­me­ters south of Bar.

There are an addi­tional six trees between the age of 1,000 and 2,000 years in the region and two trees older than 2,000 years – the Old Olive Tree and another pri­vately-owned tree aged 2,071 years.

To pro­mote this vast trove of mil­lenary olive trees, infor­ma­tional boards have been posted next to each one.

A web­site has also been pub­lished, show­ing the loca­tion of each of the trees and offer­ing events such as olive hik­ing tours, which pass by sev­eral of the trees and cul­tural and his­tor­i­cal mon­u­ments.


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