The Olive Gardens of Lun are like no other olive grove in the world. Located in Lun, Croatia these olive trees are in a small town with a big history. Families here have been caring for these primitive trees for centuries. The rocky landscape of Pag Island has been formed over thousands of years of harsh winds, known as bora to the locals, and has made The Olive Gardens of Lun an incredibly special place.
When you think of Croatia, the first thing that comes to most people’s minds is the beautiful dalmatian coastline, or maybe the exquisite world-class architecture. Award-winning olive oil in Croatia most likely isn’t even on the radar. You would be surprised to learn that there are many olive groves in Croatia that produce olive oil, but none are as special as The Olive Gardens of Lun.
The Olive Groves of Lun on Pag Island
Why is Olive Oil so Important
Olive oil cultivation has been around since the beginning of civilization, and the Olive Gardens of Lun have been there since the start. After testing these old giants, records show that some are two millenniums old. This means that for over 2000 years these magnificent living creatures have blessed residents of Lun with some of the resources they have needed to sustain the life of many of the plants and animals.
If you didn’t already know, extra virgin olive oil is made by extracting the juice from the olives fresh off the branch. Olives happen to be full of natural antioxidants and monounsaturated fatty acids, which can help in the aid of inflammation and also help to reduce the risk of many health factors that have plagued people since the beginning of time. This is not new information, the popular ancient Greek doctor Hippocrates would often prescribe olive oil as a cure for various health issues.
There are several different criteria that are taken into account for an oil to be considered extra virgin olive oil. These include a pleasant fruity smell and taste, a hint of spiciness, and a bitter flavor; in addition to, no unsavory qualities or sensory defects. Olive oils of this caliber can differ from one another, but all must meet the same high standards.
The Olive Oil in Lun
The Olive Gardens of Lun can produce extra virgin olive oil and have been for many generations. More recently they have been recognized and invited to join in with the other Dalmatia growers to send their product to New York and take place in the NYIOCC world olive oil competition. Unfortunately, their harvest of the previous year did not yield the standards necessary to send their oil in for testing.
The reasoning behind the harvest not being up to par are a little more complicated than you would expect. The Olive Gardens of Lun experienced issues with pests, intense heat, and lacked the national and Europen funding they needed due to the long-lasting land disagreements with the state.
History of The Olive Gardens of Lun
The first-ever recorded meeting about the Olive Gardens of Lun took place back in the year 1866. This meeting was held by the elders of the town, as well as the secretary of Rab municipality, Rab is a neighboring island of Pag, to discuss the forests on the island of Pag. This meeting is extremely important to the history of The Olive Gardens of Lun. As a result of this, the two islands came to an agreement to stop the deforestation and protect the olive trees, and decided who actually owned the island.
This started a long-lasting issue for the families of Lun, they were granted the rights to the olive trees, but the land remained under the control of the island of Rab. This agreement lasted until the 1990s when Croatia became an independent nation, and the land then fell under the control of the state. To this day, the families of Lun are still fighting for the rights to the land so they can get the funding they need from the E.U. and their own country to maintain and keep the olive groves that are so obviously rightfully theirs.
The olive trees in Lun have an exceptionally interesting origin. There are over 80,000 trees in the groves today; equally important, every single one of the trees in Lun was germinated naturally. Because of this unbelievable natural occurrence, they differ in size, they take on a unique shape, you can find trees of all ages, the number of olive branches is never the same, and there are even various shades of green olive leaves that are visible. All of these differences are caused by genetic variation, and although many of the olive trees in Lun have characteristics that are similar, no two will ever be the same.
Unique Features of The Olive Groves
Another noticeably unique feature you will find on Pag island is the dry stone walls. You cannot miss them, they act as fences and pathways that were created to establish the property lines. All of these stones are original to the island and they were a result of owners clearing their land for farm use.
Once the land was clear they had the ingenues idea to pile them up high, in some cases, they reach 1.8 m high and 2.0 m wide and create fences. Once the walls were complete they then created ozubas, or stone spikes, to prevent wildlife from jumping over and ruining that year’s harvest. The heritage runs deep and is very important in Lun and this tradition is still very present today because if it’s not broken, why fix it?
Today there are around 400 hectares of land that make up this historic olive grove. Out of the 400 hectares, they have opened up 75 to the public for tours. For more information on tours, prices, and when Olive Groves is open please check out their website.
When you are on your walking tour of Lun keep your eye out for the wild sheep that graze the groves. You cannot miss them, or at the very least you will hear them. They play an important role in the history of shaping the trees and the lands there. If there were no sheep, who knows if the trees would have taken on such rare formations.
You will not regret the time you spend in The Olive Gardens of Lun, it is an extraordinary place that will touch your soul. Being surrounded by living creatures that have not only survived everything that mother nature and mankind have thrown but produced such an important fruit is simply magical. You must see it for yourself to get the whole experience.