Gofio, Tenerife’s Guanche Legacy

Fri, January 6th, 2012 - By Andrea Montgomery

While most of Europe was developing an obsession with exploration, conquest and fashion, Tenerife was still inhabited by cave-dwelling, animal skin-wearing natives who lived entirely off the land and their livestock. Wander into any archaeological museum on Tenerife and you’ll quickly realise that these primitive people, known as Guanche, were not particularly skilled craftspeople. Their hand thrown pottery was functional and possesses a certain rustic charm but it’s a long way from being of Ming dynasty quality.

But who needs pottery when the Guanche gave Tenerife so much more?

For me, their most valuable legacy is the web of trails that criss cross the island from coast to coast and mountain to shoreline which the Guanche created as they drove their animals in search of new pastures, heading into the mountains in search of water in summer and back to the coast in winter. Those trails today provide wonderful walking and hiking routes on Tenerife where you can explore for hours and barely meet another soul.

Their most famous, and certainly most controversial legacy, is the pyramids. The Guanche were sun worshippers and many believe they built stepped pyramids which you can visit at the Piramídes de Guimar, where incidentally you’ll also find the best of their pottery and ceramics on display. Skilled in the art of mummification, you can also find preserved Guanche remains in museums in Granadilla, Santa Cruz and Puerto de la Cruz which make for compellingly gruesome viewing.

But when it comes to Guanche practices still in use today, the ingredient that takes the biscuit is gofio.

A fine flour milled from toasted wheat or barley grains, you’ll find packets of gofio in most major supermarkets alongside the flour. You can buy it freshly toasted and ground directly from the mills in La Orotava and Los Realejos. Smelling and tasting a bit like an ice cream cone, it’s combined with condensed milk or sweetened goat’s milk to create a power drink which farmhouse wives give to their sons to build their strength and which Lucha Canaria wrestlers eat as a food steroid.

For those of us who’d rather not grow any more bulk of any kind, gofio can be taken in smaller quantities in the form of amasado which is a kind of cake made from gofio, water and added spices. You’ll find amasado given away at traditional romerías like La Orotava, Garachico and San Miguel de Abona. You’ll also find it accompanying your soup or your Rancho Canario stew where it’s used as a DIY thickener – spoon and stir until your soup is the consistency you prefer. I’ve had it served this way in the La Guanche restaurant in Masca where it accompanied some tasty, home made tomato soup and in Santiago del Teide and Vilaflor where it was served with my puchero stew.

If you want to try a really traditional way to eat gofio, head into the hills to somewhere like Teno Alto or the Anaga Mountains, find a traditional restaurant (you may be hard pressed to find any other kind) and order their escaldón or escaldo. A thick paste made from gofio mixed with fish, vegetable or potato stock, it’s both filling and tasty – perfect for replenishing energy spent on hiking those tasty Guanche trails.

Posted : Friday, January 6th, 2012 at 3:27 pm
Category : about tenerife
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8 Responses to “Gofio, Tenerife’s Guanche Legacy”

  1. […] the same ingredients that Tenerife’s original inhabitants, The Guanches used centuries ago, gofio. This toasted wheat is mixed with fish stock and herbs to make a thick paste. Try as a starter; […]

  2. […] Finally we come to the Lennox Lewis of the goats’ cheese world, the curados. These babies have been matured for more than 105 days and can take the fur off your tongue soon as look at you. Pungent and packed with cheesy flavour they can tread a fine line between delicious and dangerous. They can be natural, smoked or coated in paprika or gofio. […]

  3. If those pyramids have anything to do with the Guanches they I am Rob Roy’s sister!!

  4. […] starters I love Rosa’s escaldon, a kind of paté made with the toasted flour known as gofio. All Canarian restaurants have their own versions, but I can say, hand on heart, that Rosa’s, […]

  5. Davina Howard says:

    ANOTHER GREAT ARTICLE ! Please tell me where MOLINA DE GOFIO LA MAQUINA is ? and when San Miguel de Abona has a Gofio festival or cheese for that matter. In fact, is there a cheese exhibition in Tenerife ?

    • Hi Davina,
      Molina de Gofio La Maquina is in La Orotava, near Casa de Los Balcones. I have no idea if San Miguel has any food festivals I’m afraid, you’ll need to check their Ayuntamiento website to find out. There are frequent cheese markets across the island and permanent agricultural markets where you can try before you buy.

  6. […] such as cabra (goat), carne fiesta (fried pork), escaldón (fish or meat stock thickened with gofio), salchichas (sausages), garbanzos (chickpeas) and costillas con piña (ribs with corn on the cob), […]

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