Tourism is, of course, king of the Canary Islands economy, but do you ever wonder what else keeps commerce running on this sub-tropical island? Those staying in the north won’t be surprised to hear that bananas are an important element, as the verdant terraces approaching Puerto de la Cruz testify. In the south it is perhaps less obvious, since many plantations are hidden by plastic greenhouses to protect them against the north easterly winds and evaporation in the desert air.
This week I discovered a great place to find out more about this delicious fruit, and a lot about the history of the island as a bonus. I visited Finca las Margaritas, which you will find on the main road which links Las Galletas to the autopista TF1.
The finca is no ordinary tourist attraction. It’s a genuine, working business, founded in 1977 by family of our host, Adolfo, who came from neighbouring La Palma where bananas are still more important economically than tourists. So it’s a chance to find out about a real slice of Tenerife.
After learning about the finca, I’d phoned the previous day to book a guided tour, though visitors are welcome to have a self guided amble around, reading the signs along the pathways (in English as well as other languages, and excellent translations too) as they go, which explain the work involved and the history of the crop.
As we entered the seemingly endless, green groves we learned that they are in fact not a tree, as many think, but a giant herb, and that from planting the fledgling grasses to harvesting ripe bananas it’s a five year process. Each plant requires 20 to 25 litres of water daily, which is considerably less than the 400 needed in the old days. Water comes from three different sources today, as well as the fresh water from Tenerife’s famous underground galleries, recycled water is used, and also water from a nearby desalination facility.
Our tour took us through the lifecycle of the plant, of which Finca Margarita planted 11,000 last year, to its final act of bearing fruit, after which it is chopped down, ‘daughters’ and ‘granddaughters’ are already growing alongside, waiting to bear their own fruit. The male plants are ruthlessly discarded by the way!
Along the way, our very knowledgeable guide, Iñaki, threw in tid bits of Guanche history, reminiscences from his own childhood (playing soccer with a ball made from banana leaves), as well as the history of bananas themselves, which first came to the Canary Islands in the 16th century from West Africa.
At the end of our tour, during which I peppered Iñaki and Adolfo with questions, we sat for a while outside a sort of garden shed and tasted delicious samples of products made from the finca’s bananas. My favourite, to my surprise, was a mixture of banana and mojo, which had the same sweet and spicey combination as chilli chocolate.
Adolfo told me that when they opened to the public in 2012, his idea was to teach locals as well as tourists about what has been an important part of Tenerife culture, and he has lots of ideas about expanding on this theme. I came away not only understanding how my breakfast banana is produced, but with a better understanding of my adopted home.
Finca las Margaritas is sited on Avenida la Calma, on the left-hand side if you come from TF1 (from Los Cristianos or Costa Adeje. Guided tours are every Tuesday at 10am, but you can do the unguided version Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays at that time. Price is just €7 for guided or €3 non-guided. Ring (0034) 617 696 045 to book a tour.
Category : about tenerife
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