An Interpretation Centre is an “institution for the dissemination of knowledge of natural or cultural heritage…different means of communication to enhance the understanding of heritage.” From its inception, The Cliffs Interpretation Centre at Dingli Cliffs, has and will continue to be dedicated to the innovative means of spreading information on the local flora and fauna biodiversity, history and archaeological landmarks and local products in a pro-active manner.
The Centre is always upgrading its product to find novel ways of communication to aid visitors in getting in direct contact with what Dingli Cliffs have to offer. At The Cliffs Centre, the art of cooking is linked to the natural heritage and the local economy of Dingli.
Revitalising wild and semi-wild edible produce
Unlike other interpretation centres around the island, gastronomy is part of the concept within The Cliffs Interpretation Centre, this is well established in the Dingli Sustainable Plan, Environmental Project Description Statement and EU funding application of which the Centre got high marks, this could be attributed to the fact that it is in line with the Tourism Policy. One of the initial aims of The Cliffs Interpretation Centre was to study past traditions related to edible local plants and fruits, and incorporating them into the daily means of communication about the rich biodiversity of the area. Among the 1100 species of wild plants that can be found in the Maltese Islands, many are edible. The Cliffs Centre has amalgamated the use of local plants in its education related to gastronomy. Seasonal variations in local food are promoted through the culinary arts such as the wild plants of the Asparagus, Stinging Nettles, Borage, etc…
Several fruit species are often ignored in the Maltese Islands, and to this end, The Cliffs Interpretation Centre has rediscovered the potential of these fruits in jam making, whilst generating more environmental awareness. The prickly pear is often ignored since the species is not native to the Mediterranean, however chutneys and jams are made to promote this product. A past local tradition that has been rejuvenated at The Cliffs is the making of quince jam, a fruit which is not eaten raw, but which has valued medicinal properties, also acknowledged by our ancestors.
Jams, marmalades, olive oil, savoury delicatessen and dried herbs are available at The Cliffs Interpretation Centre. The Centre focuses on traditional produce and also finds innovative ways of jam production, such as by combining various local products e.g. Loquat & Wild Fennel Jam or the Pumpkin & Maltese Orange Marmalade.
Past culinary traditions
Past practices of air-drying local food are also continued at The Centre, such as the use of a traditional ventilated box to air-dry cheeselets and sun-dried tomatoes. This structure is housed within a miniature herb garden, from which numerous herbs served at The Centre grow. Other seasonal produce at The Cliffs Interpretation Centre include jars of traditionally pickled onions and harvested pumpkins. Wild fennel seeds are also harvested during the summer months, as a traditional practice at Dingli Cliffs.
In line with the EU Nature policy, The Cliffs Interpretation Centre highlights socio-economic and environmental aspects. The gastronomical experience offered at The Centre continues to promote the area to visitors. The catering area is part of a holistic plan including two trails leading to the main landmarks of the area. This is the first plan working holistically and sustainably in the islands.