Going Bananas on Tenerife

Fri, October 19th, 2012 - By Andrea Montgomery

Anyone who’s ventured beyond the beach on Tenerife can’t fail to have noticed the ubiquitous banana plants, often housed in polyethylene to protect them from the rigours of the sea breeze, that grow all over the island.  The commercial production of bananas has been on Tenerife since the 1880s.

bananas

 

The banana was first thought to have been commercially introduced to Tenerife in 1855 by Sabine Berthelot who brought the ‘Chinese’ banana to the island. But it wasn’t until five years later that the firm of Wolfson and Fyffe began exporting, their first commercial delivery of bananas arriving in London in 1880. Unfortunately, just as the exports were reaching their zenith, World War 1 interrupted trade and economic and political circumstances changed the course of the trade. Now Fyffes mainly import their bananas to the UK from the Windward Islands and Tenerife bananas are mainly exported to the Spanish mainland.

Banana harvesting on Tenerife

 

Today, it’s the Dwarf Cavendish variety of banana which is predominantly grown on Tenerife and across the Canary Islands. The plants are grown from rootstocks or rhizomes which throw shoots up from the ground to produce new plants. At any one time you can see three banana plants growing together – the ‘adult’ plant which will produce the current crop, the new plant for the following crop and a baby shoot for the crop after that. It takes 11 to 15 months for the plant to reach full maturity and it takes 4 to 7 months from the flower appearing for the bananas to reach harvest-ready ripeness. When the fruits begin to grow, the branch that holds them is too heavy for the plant and has to be propped to prevent it from breaking the main stalk. In the final stages of ripening, you’ll often see the bananas covered in individual, blue polyethylene bags to protect them from birds and insects.

banana plantations Tenerife

The first banana plantations on Tenerife were in the La Orotava Valley but now they can be seen all over the north, south and south west coasts where they are protected from the excesses of the easterly winds. Drive westwards from Costa Adeje and you’ll see great swathes of banana plantations bridging the gaps between the resorts of Playa Paraiso, Callao Salvaje, Alcalá and Playa San Juan, all the way to Playa de la Arena. Travel to the north west coast and you’ll see bananas vying for space with vines across the agricultural faces of Puerto de la Cruz, La Orotava and Tacoronte.

banana plant

Bananas are thirsty plants and where you see a plantation, a water tank is bound to be not far away for when winter rains fail and for the long summer months of drought. When they first begin to ripen, bananas have a high starch and low sugar content but as they reach ripeness that ratio is reversed. Once the skin has turned yellow with small brown spots, they are fully ripe and as sweet as any you’ve tasted.

Tenerife’s number one agricultural export, the humble banana is a cheap and delicious source of potassium, iron and vitamin B6 with no fat content. Stock up and let yourself go bananas 🙂

Posted : Friday, October 19th, 2012 at 8:22 am
Category : about tenerife
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One Response to “Going Bananas on Tenerife”

  1. Graham says:

    Thanks for this page found it helpful as I have a 7 inch on my window sill and want to have it grow in our sheltered housing area and think it will help us pass the time away watching it grow if it gets that far. Love Tenerife for spring getaways did not see a lot of sun mid march but got the best tan ever.

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