How tomatoes are grown in Iceland in a highly sustainable greenhouse

It may sound strange to see a fruit or vegetable usually associated with temperate climate growing just a few miles south of the Arctic Circle, yet this is what happens in Iceland with tomatoes.

Tomatoes are not a traditional product of Iceland; it is impossible to grow them outdoor on the island, as it is simply too cold. Yet, Icelanders have found an ingenious solution to eat a locally-produced Mediterranean-style salad: to build greenhouses. Since at least the 1920s, various species of edible fruits and vegetables are cultivated in Iceland’s geothermally-heated greenhouses, including tomatoes, lettuces, cucumbers, peppers, and strawberries.

One of the best examples of this agricultural know-how is the Friðheimar greenhouse in Reykholt, a village in southwestern Iceland. Founded by Knútur Rafn Ármann and Helena Hermundardóttir in 1995 and specializing in the production of tomatoes, Friðheimar is just one of the many greenhouse-based farms in Iceland, but it has become particularly famous because it is one of the few open to visit all year round, as well as for its varied program of events and activities. Committed to sustainable and eco-friendly horticulture, the farm also includes a restaurant, stables for Icelandic horses, and an equestrian arena.

At Friðheimar, about 10,000 plants produce about one ton of tomatoes a day, 365 days a year, on a cultivated area of 4,200 m2. The farm’s greenhouses and 300 m2 plant nursery are heated by hot geothermal water, of which Iceland is famously abundant. To grow vegetables all year round, natural lighting is integrated by an artificial lighting system mostly based on High-Intensity Discharge Lamps, powered by the island’s 42 hydro and geothermal power plants.

Heated by geothermal water and totally powered with electricity by renewable energy sources, Friðheimar features one of the world’s most sustainable greenhouses. 

The Friðheimar farm also contains a restaurant specializing in tomato-based recipes like tomato soups, pasta, salads (including a Caprese salad made with Icelandic Mozzarella), tomato pies, beers, non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks, and cocktails. The menu features mostly tomato-based food recipes, many of which are inspired by Mediterranean cuisines.

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