Despite its unpretentious façade, this small building is the shop window of the Spiteri family’s fabulous agroturismo, the Ta’ Mena Estate, growing and selling a wide range of traditional Gozitan produce.
It all began in the 1980s, when Frank Spiteri and his wife Carmena (popularly known as 'Mena' and after whom the estate is named) began growing fruit and vegetables with a view to becoming self-sufficient. Over the years, it has developed substantially and is now run by their children Joseph, Margaret, Philip, Mark and Patrick.
Set within a small terraced valley – which boasts its own special micro-climate – olive, lemon and orange groves and vineyards are cultivated on the 25 hectare estate, as well as market gardens, growing a wide range of fruit and vegetables. The family sells to local restaurants and shops as well as supplying the holiday accommodation on their estate – and Ta’ Mena also has an outlet in Valleta on Malta. But they don’t just ‘grow and sell’ here – they are very proud of their Gozitan heritage and are keen to share the island’s unique history, culture and traditions (especially relating to food) with visitors.
The Spiteri family appreciates that an increasing number of holidaymakers want to know what goes on behind the scenes and learn how local foods are grown and processed, and they will happily break off from work behind the counter to talk about their crops, fruits and plants which they continue to process using traditional methods.
This not only includes extra virgin olive oil, honey, syrups, jams and chutneys, but also the production of the estate’s excellent wines – ten Ta’ Mena wines have been certified with ‘Gozo DOK’ accreditation (‘Certified Denomination of Origin’). Fruity, full-bodied and with tiny traces of salt, they are a product of the island’s unique ‘terroir’ – the so-called ‘Island Effect’ – due in no small part to the proximity of the famous coastal saltpans of Marsalforn, just three kilometres away.
The highly-prized Gozitan salt has been used to preserve foodstuffs for centuries, long before the days of refrigeration. Using recipes handed down through the generations, a combination of this high-quality sea salt and the hot Mediterranean sun allows Ta’ Mena to preserve and produce a wide array of tasty delicacies from sublime sun-dried sweet tomatoes and tangy wild capers in vinegar – to a very smooth prickly pear liqueur!
Visit in September and October and you can be a part of the grape and olive harvests, join a guided tour of the estate, indulge in wine and food tasting sessions – and then sample the delights of Ta’ Mena over lunch.