Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

A continuous success story

I felt so proud while reading the article named "The story of the birds and the bees" by Kristina Chetcuti featured on the latest E&D magazine. This article explains how Charles Camilleri, one of the beekeepers who supplies us regularly with honey, managed to place himself very well in a blind honey tasting competition in Tuscany. 

Charles also happens to be a good friend of mine. We were colleagues when I worked at the Ministry for Rural Affairs and the Environment and we read for the same Bachelors in Agro-Ecosystems Management between 2005 and 2008. After completing our studies, we took different paths, however we soon started working hand in hand on the Merill Local Products venture. Honey is by far the most popular local product of the Maltese people and we only choose the very best producers who like Charles, carry out bee keeping with a lot of dedication and passion.

Properties of honey have been appreciated since early times and life history of bees has been studied in detail to reap the maximum benefits from swarms. Bees are precious creatures as they are also responsible for carrying out a large percentage of pollination in many of the insect pollinated species. 

The relevance of this article lies in the fact that bee keeping is an agricultural practice that our ancestors have mastered. Nowadays, science and technology have made bee keeping a specific section within the umbrella of Agriculture. Many ask me, "are there any opportunities for students who are inclined to study Agriculture?". My answer is certainly Yes! Malta is a very small country however there are many opportunities that have not been exploited as yet. Marketing and Research in the Agricultural sector are two areas where there is ample room for growth, not only in Malta, but also in many countries around the world.

In principle, we only sell pure local honey in spite quantities are so limited. Our prices are fair in spite we do not have economies of scale like other Mediterranean countries. We are convinced about the quality of our honey and being a prestigious local product makes us look forward.

This year we have worked hard to assemble a larger range of products, all packaged in 100% upcycled packaging. To know more about our Eco Hamper, click here!

More links about this article:

Merill Local Products Eco Hamper Catalogue review from Charles Camilleri - Page 12

Article written by Jeanette Borg - Owner Merill Eco Tours and Local Products

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Stuck for gift ideas this Christmas?

l-Għalqa Eco Hamper
For many, Christmas is a period of dread - hectic shopping, cooking and get-togethers and to top it all choosing the right gifts for family and friends can easily become a nightmare. We live in times when it's becoming increasingly difficult to buy gifts that are appreciated by others. 

This year you can hit two birds with  one stone; buy a gift, and contribute towards the Maltese environment. The packaging used in our Eco-Hampers is entirely reused or fair trade, while all the products are strictly local. We work closely with farmers who produce genuine delicacies and are also committed towards the greening of our countryside. Honey and olive oil are by far the most popular products chosen by the Maltese people. Price also matters; this is why we have developed a whole range of packages between 6 and 40 Euros! We can even tailor make your ideal hamper according to your needs.

To view the whole range of eco-hampers click here

Feel free to send us an email on or give us a call on 79411388. We'd love to hear from you!

Visit our stand at The Point Shopping Complex in Tigne on Sunday 20th November between 11am and 8pm.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Fair-trade and environmentally friendly gifts

As Merill Local Products we are committed towards the environment and the well being of local communities. This is expressed mostly in our Eco-Hampers campaign.

For packaging we use strictly recycled material and fair-trade products.

Please see more about our fair-trade bags here.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Sea Salt from Malta

Sun, sea and salads, ...three of my favourite things about summer. Living in an island surrounded by the sea, it's easy to take its richness for granted. The Mediterranean sea has a long history of trade and one of the items to make cargoes worth fighting for was sea salt. As a traditional product sea salt has lost most of its use here in Malta. The reason being that imported mined salt has been commercially introduced and marketed in supermarkets to a much greater extent. Traditions are very important and loosing this tradition would be a real pity.

As Merill Local Products we have teamed up with traditional salt harvesters who still have this activity at heart. The harvesting and packaging process is carried out by the harvesters while we do marketing of this authentic product. Jars of sea salt are attractively presented in hampers, ideal to give as presents. 

Feel free to visit the Merill Local Products Facebook fan page to find out more about our Eco Hampers.

Marketing the sea salt is definitely just one step towards the revival of this tradition! We are doing our best to create awareness about sea salt harvesting, the hardship behind it and health aspects related to salt. To start this off, we are setting up workshops of salt harvesting. These are being very well received, especially with parents who are enthusiastic about having their kids learn about local traditions.

For more updates about workshops being organised, visit and "Like" our Merill Eco Tours fan page

Here are some interesting facts about salt; 

Salt is a mineral made up of sodium chloride. It has an important role in the human body and its use has an intrinsic history. Too much of it can be harmful to us but a little of it is definitely a must! Sea salt is salt obtained by the evaporation of seawater, and is used in cooking and cosmetics. Generally more expensive than table salt, it is commonly used in gourmet cooking and specialty.

Iodine, a chemical naturally found in the sea is essential for human health. However, rock salt which naturally lacks iodine compounds compared to sea salt, is iodized industrially for use in treatments to prevent goitre and other iodine deficiency syndromes. 

Here are some vital functions of salt in the body:

  • Most effective in stabilising irregular heartbeats and, contrary to the misconception that it causes high blood pressure, it is actually essential for the regulation of blood pressure - in conjunction with water. Naturally, the proportions are critical.
  • Necessary for the extraction of excess acidity from the cells in the body, particularly the brain cells.
  • Essential for balancing the sugar levels in the blood; a needed element in diabetics.
  • An important element to the nerve cells' communication and information processing all the time that the brain cells work, from the moment of conception to death.
  • 27 % of the body's salt is found in the bones. Osteoporosis results when the body needs more salt and takes it from the body. Bones are 22% water. 
  • Essential for the prevention of muscle cramps.

References: and

Compiled by Jeanette Borg (31.8.2011)

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

A Delightful Summer Fruit from Malta

Bambinella Fruit

The Small Malta June Pear, also known as Bambinella, is one of the minor fruits grown in Malta. The shape of this fruit resembles that of a Pear, but is smaller and more round in shape. It's absolutely delicious and would suggest it to anyone with a sweet tooth :) Going price is around 2.50 Euro per pot and are available at fruit and veg vendors. One can also visit the Farmer's Market in Ta' Qali and purchase the fruit directly from the farmers (Tuesdays and Saturdays only).

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Baked goodies

It's always a pleasure visiting bakeries. The nice smell of baked goodies can be sensed from far away. Many say that traditional recipes are dying out...certainly not true. Some are still committed to bake the traditional way and sell the most tasty crispy bread and delicious sweets ever. The buns showing in this photo are not just any buns. Their texture is light and their sweet taste makes you feel nostalgic. Bread and buns are two of the few items one can find at traditional bakeries. Almond rings, croissants, coconut sweets and fig rolls would make excellent treats to a tea party, Holy Communion or Baptism party.

As kids we used to smell and taste these goodies more often. Nowadays life is so busy that we rarely stop when we smell cakes freshly baked. To keep these traditions going, we Maltese need to support such bakers and make them feel proud of the work they do. 

Friday, 3 June 2011

The eco friendly fruity temptation

Posing with a Fig and Blackberry Smoochie
How many times have you heard health promo slogans say...consume 5 a day? Well, eating fruits is the easiest, most enjoyable and safest way to pack yourself with healthy vitamins and anti oxidants.

Sandra Zammit had this in mind around 5 years ago when she developed a great eco-friendly business. She is a wife and mum of four and before starting up this venture she felt that it's not easy to give kids fresh, washed, peeled and chopped fruits in today's busy timetable. After lots of planning, risk taking and hard work, Smoochies came along. No concentrates, sugars or additives, and not even one drop of water. The fruits form a tasty blend within every 250ml bottle.

Today I also had the opportunity to visit the factory where Smoochies are made. What a lovely place! The employees all had a nice smile on their face and they do a lot of hard work with dedication. They process the fruit, manage the machinery and carry out meticulous cleaning after every process. The hygiene at the factory is super and a HACCP plan is toroughly followed to bring a safe and genuine product to consumers.

There are many ways why Smoochies are eco friendly. Whenever possible, local fruits are used. All the bottles are made of recycled plastic. The business is also social friendly as the welfare of the employees is evident. They are motivated, trained and happy producing a bountiful product to families in Malta and Gozo. 

Sandra will be taking up more challenges....she has lot of delicious stuff coming up in the future...and always with a sustainable vision in mind!

For more info about Smoochies call on 27017127.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Pastizzi from Malta!!

Pastizzi are a Maltese food made up of diamond shape pastries filled with either ricotta (similar to Italian ricotta but less dense) or slightly spicy pea filling, known respectively in Maltese as pastizzi ta' l-irkotta and pastizzi tal-pizelli. The pastry is made using a puff-pastry like dough that crumbles delicously especially when the pastizzi are served freshly baked in the various pastizzerias dotted around Malta and Gozo. A visit to Malta would not be complete without tasting a few!

Pastizzi can be eaten at anytime of the day as a quick snack with hot or cold beverages. Other pastizzi variants made of beef and spinach fillings also exist although these are not commonly sold in Malta. Sometimes pastizzi are referred to as Maltese cheesecakes or ricotta cheesecakes, a slightly misleading term since cheesecakes are usually sweet not savoury like pastizzi. Pastizzi are also available outside of Malta, most notably in Australia, Canada and the UK.


Shaping up before summer? - Why not prepare a local "gbejna" salad!

dry peppered sheep cheeslets
Temperatures are rising and we'll soon start enjoying our lovely beaches....what's the next step? Start getting in shape. Traditional sheep and goat cheeselets, in Maltese "gbejniet", are excellent as condiments for salads and platters. There are a variety of types one can choose from. Fresh carrots and beef steak tomatoes go well with "gbejniet" and other processed goodies. 

Sheep and goat rearing has been carried out in Malta since ancient times. They are far more sustainable than larger non-native animals such as cows, as they are smaller herbivorous animals, thus they consume less and produce less manure. Housing them takes less space. This also adds on to the sustainability index of farms specialised in sheep and goats only, since land is a limited resource in Malta.

There is also some good news for lactose intolerant persons. Sheep and goat cheeselets contain milk fats and proteins that are more digestible. Please do take care to buy directly from trustworthy farmers! 

For more information do not hesitate to contact us on 79411388 for more details.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Choose local fruit and veg while saving money! The Farmers Market in Ta' Qali

It's an experience to visit the market on Saturday morning. Lots of people surround the tents to have a closer look at the fresh fruit and vegetables nicely displayed. Peas were the item of the day while peaches are starting to ripen. The variety of products one can find is amazing and the quality is super. I noticed that the products last longer in the fridge, meaning they are really fresh. Farmers feel proud when people visit their stand week after week. 

Buying stuff from the Farmers Market in Ta' Qali is a guarantee that the product is strictly local. There is no chance you'll find pineapples or bananas as they don't grow in Malta. 

It's not just veggies. One can also buy local poultry, pig meat and fish. 

Here are a useful link; Tal-Malti Poultry Products

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

A Treasure to be cherished - Biodiversity!

A simple definition to biodiversity is "the variety of life on Earth". Many have encountered this term across the media or at school but very few appreciate its worth. Today I had the opportunity to visit a very rich and varied farm in Malta. The vast patch of land is not only a commercial farm where a variety of fruits and vegetables grow, but also a showcase of species, most of which are being lost. Fig, local apple, the small Malta June pear, also known as "Bambinella" and many others made part of an old farm that sustained a rural community throughout olden times. The grandmother of the farmer I met used to say that "even in times when food was scarce, the fruit trees provided enough food to sustain their family". The trees yielded fruit at different times of the year and this was an insurance of their own future.

Nowadays we overlook the hardship our ancestors have been through. Whenever we need food we go and buy it from the closest supermarket or green grocers. Little do we appreciate that many of the local species are being lost since they are not being seen as "commercially viable" by the industry. Interesting to note that a few years ago, Bambinella attracted Marks and Spencers officials. After visiting Malta and tasting this delicate fruit, they went into agreement with some farmers to ship a good load of Bambinella to England. This is a good example of how a minor fruit species can be marketed in a country where it isn't available.

More info about Bambinella: A success at Londons Marks and Spencers

How can we help in all this? Surely, by buying local products we would be preventing the loss of our agricultural biodiversity. The loss of agricultural land is the biggest threat, and the only way to fight this is not through legislation but through education and awareness. Each and every patch of land lost to other activities such as construction, we would be destroying another piece of land that could be potentially utilised to preserve our biodiversity and traditions!

This video gives an insight of how serious and damaging is the loss of biodiversity: The Need for Biodiversity

Monday, 18 April 2011

Bigilla and the GMO saga