Iceland has so many contrasts. Being a lightly populated island north of usual routes, it has to be very self-sufficient wherever practical. During my visits, the somewhat limited bills of fare that make up the traditional diet are easy to understand. It’s the twenty-first century, and much more variety is possible with modern forms of international commerce. Iceland still manages to feed themselves with only a few significant exceptions. It is nearly impossible to grow grain in their cold climate, and nearly all is imported. Most fresh fruits are as well, with some interesting exceptions. Wild berries are a common food in stores, restaurants, and homes. Native berries such as crowberry, bilberry, and wild strawberry are all used. Most other fruits are imported. Vegetables and greens are increasingly being grown in geothermally heated greenhouses.
It so happened that we stopped at a commercial greenhouse that specializes in tomatoes. The operation was obviously a serious industry. Friðheimar farm was the place we stopped to see. There we found over 60,000 square feet of greenhouses. The operation produces nearly 90% of the tomatoes consumed in Iceland. None are exported. They also grow cucumbers on a smaller scale. Each greenhouse is heated by geothermally heated water from a well on the property. The artificial lights are powered by hydropower from a nearby river. Water to grow the tomatoes is also from the same glacier-fed river. The quality of the produce couldn’t be higher. They grow only four varieties of tomatoes. None of these are able to be transported very far. The desire to grow the very best is seen throughout.
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