Iceland home to N. Europe's largest banana plantation

Around 1950, Garðyrkjuskóli ríkisins in Iceland planted their first banana plants as an experiment. Only 177 miles from the Arctic Circle, the plantation at the Icelandic National Gardening School, is the biggest banana plantation in Northern Europe; fed by an abundance of volcanic hot springs, the heat from them is what makes this quite impossible idea possible.

After the initial trials in the 50s, the experiment stopped, as it had been proven that bananas could grow in greenhouses in Iceland, although not in an economically advantageous way. The school nevertheless decided to continue to keep their plants, for the fun of it.

The school has several large greenhouses. Alongside the bananas they grow coffee, cocoa, avocado and other plants normally found in the Southern hemisphere. Bananas are the biggest group here with around 100 plants; the rest are grown in pairs.

Winter temperatures in the area regularly go below the freezing point and summer temperatures top out around 60 degrees Fahrenheit, so even in a greenhouse, it can become a little chilly for plants that love heat and sun. But with the warmth from the volcanic springs, temperatures are kept at a steady 70 degrees year round .

Of course, being so close to the Arctic circle does mean a shorter growing season (normally bananas develop their clusters year-round.) Somehow, even though the sun is only out four hours a day in the winter months, these bananas have survived in their volcanically heated home. These cold-weather bananas are harvested from April to June. Beyond bananas, the area is home to more conventional greenhouse crops, like tomatoes.

Photo credit: Kasper Friis
Source: atlasobscura.com

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