With a diverse history that counts the Romans, Greeks, French, Spanish, Turks, and British as its erstwhile rulers, Malta’s culinary landscape was always destined for greatness. A cursory foray veers giddily from rustic rabbit stews and unique local takes on ratatouille and Bouillabaisse, to flatbreads piled à la pizza and crisp, Sicilian-style kannoli with citrus ricotta. As with all recipes, the quality of the ingredients is paramount, and Malta’s homegrown edibles are spectacular. Our guide to the best local produce in Malta doubles as a souvenir wish list.
The brilliant sunlight and sea breezes have long fostered groves of silvery olive trees across Malta – in fact, olive oil production has been practised since the Romans ruled the island. These days, chefs and lovers of local Maltese produce praise its olive oil as some of the world’s best – delicious as a cooking ingredient or simply served up alongside a crusty loaf. Many farmers informally sell bottles of their freshly pressed, extra-virgin harvest, so keep an eye on roadside signs. Alternatively, visitors can sign up for a tour and tasting at the Tan-Nixxiegħa grove.
Local Maltese Wine
While France, Italy and Spain may reign the Old World, Malta’s vineyards produce a very competitive Cabernet Sauvignon and Chenin Blanc. However, its indigenous grapes are highly coveted, too. For a light, fruity red, try Gellewza, while crisp, white Girgentina is the ideal sip on a hot day. If you’re lucky enough to be in Malta during one of its many wine festivals, it’s a good opportunity to sample excellent Gozitan wines, as well as delicious local produce in Malta.
Goats do well in warm and semi-arid climates, and as a result, their cheese is another staple of traditional Maltese food. Specifically, gbejniet: historically made in Gozo, these roundels come in a variety of forms. When fresh, this cheese is as creamy and mild as mozzarella, while the aged varieties are firmer and nuttier. Many producers also coat the cheeses in pepper or other spices, or store them in olive oil. While gbejniet are widely available, Gozo is the best place to sample them. Stop in at Ta’ Rikardu in Victoria for all kinds of local produce – the owner also moonlights as a cheesemaker.
Given Malta’s coastal location, next on the list shouldn’t come as any surprise. Salt production is an ancient tradition here, and today it continues, with salt pans across Malta and Gozo producing tonnes of the mineral every year. The curious can even attend sustainable salt harvesting workshops.
Sugar And Spice
Where would local produce in Malta be without something sweet? There’s nothing quite as inviting as a sun-warmed fig, bursting with juiciness. Citrus fruits also thrive in Malta, as do dates. Carob syrup and honey are staples of farmers’ markets, and cumin is another local speciality – the island of Comino derives its name from the spice. From farms to markets and shops to restaurants, you’ll find fresh, local Maltese produce at every step.