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Banana cultivation in cold greenhouses in Hveragerði

Icelanders operate northernmost banana plantation in the world

The Icelanders have a dream. They want to take care of themselves. That goes for their tropical fruit consumption as well. But it is so cold.

And now there is this: In Iceland, they are growing bananas. As if life was not hard enough. Banana trees love a warm environment; they fear ice like a snowman fears the tropics. Luckily, as far as we know, there has never been a snowman in tropics. But banana trees there are, in Iceland. And wouldn't you know, they are full of sweet fruits.

The path to these fruits leads through a landscape that looks like a loaf of rough farmer's bread. Crusted, rugged, dusted at higher altitudes: there is snow. In between a few birches, pressed down by the wind. Anyone who drives here by car would expect to see a Yeti rather than bananas. Both would seem to be equally unlikely, but the Yeti would fit the scenery better in terms of color. There are some coaches on the road as well. In them: tourists. They do not want the bananas; they want tomatoes. These are also an attraction in Iceland. They are not as big a thing as the bananas, but there are much more of them. Icelanders breed seventy percent of all the tomatoes they eat -and they do like to eat tomatoes- in their own country, in the midst of ice and snow and volcanoes.

This shows that the strange idea with the bananas is part of an even stranger idea: simply to grow everything the Icelanders want to eat in Iceland. The idea is not new. It dates from the days when Iceland was still relatively cut off from the rest of the world, but already connected enough to have heard of all kinds of delicious fruits and vegetables.

That was about eighty years ago. At that time, occasionally exotic fruits like bananas were for sale in Iceland, but almost no one could afford them. They were shipped very slowly, from very far away, and that cost money. Other fruits -strawberries for example- did not even get to Iceland. They would have rotted away during the voyage. At that time, many Icelanders had health problems. That was because their diet was very monotonous. Meat and fish were all very nice, but then it was mainly root vegetables, cabbage, potatoes, berries. That was it. A few farmers had already experimented with greenhouses. But only in the fifties, with the first successful banana cultivation, their determination grew. If you can grow bananas, you can do it all.

Today, this does not really matter anymore to the Icelanders. Everything can be imported. It is cheap like never before. But instead of simply importing, they are now putting more work into their own cultivation than ever before. People say it has something to do with their patriotism. But it has more to do with the shock they suffered ten years ago. At that time, their banking system collapsed. Their currency was hardly worth anything anymore. Imported foods were suddenly incredibly expensive again. And anything Icelandic at once became very cheap. The Icelanders bought Icelandic.

Now, the crisis has past. But the feeling has remained: 'When the going gets tough, we have to help ourselves.' In the supermarkets, vegetables from all parts of the world can indeed be found. But for goods that were grown in Iceland, there is the nation's flag on the packaging, like a medal. And that's not all. There are lists in the supermarket; every piece of fruit is listed on it, and next to it the country of origin. Pineapple: Costa Rica. Pomegranate: Peru. Zucchini: Holland. Spring onions: Germany. Cucumbers: Iceland. For cucumbers, the peculiar idea of ​​the Icelanders already works. They already grow all their cucumbers themselves.

Source: Frankfurter Allgemeine


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