Bananas - an important food crop in Tenerife in the Canary Islands
Once in Tenerife
Once upon a time in Tenerife in the Canary Islands, there was a garden where you could learn all about how bananas grew and other fruit trees and crops as well. Everything was explained and you could wander around, enjoying the beauty of the place whilst learning a lot at the same time.
You could see the trees and shrubs in all their magnificence, bathe in the warm sunshine and delight in the beautiful flowers. All of this was available at Bananera el Guanche.
Bananera el Guanche photos
It’s not all bananas at Bananera el Guanche
Bananera el Guanche was far more than a banana plantation and was somewhere I had heard about before I moved to Tenerife, as well as having seen it from the window of the bus into Puerto de la Cruz on many occasions. I love bananas and tropical gardens and I needed a new story for my column so I thought I'd find out what the place had to offer.
Bananera el Guanche was just out of Puerto on the main road to La Orotava and was easy to spot. After I had paid at the entrance - and was a bit more expensive than the nearby Botanic Gardens, but I would now say well worth it - I got to sit and watch an interesting short video about banana cultivation.
The video explained that the banana is a hermaphrodite having male and female parts on the same plant but because it doesn't produce seeds more bananas are propagated from suckers off the rootstock. I could see them growing all around where I was sat and I set off to explore.
Bananera el Guanche had pathways that led off past the first section, where they grow the fruit it is named after, into a wonderful garden of tropical fruit trees, exotic flowers, cacti and all sorts of other interesting plants.
I was very impressed with how there are neat labels for everything so an inexperienced gardener can identify what they find. I like to pride myself on my botanical knowledge but I must admit I had never seen a Chewing Gum tree before.
There were Avocados, Limes, Loquats, Mangos, Grapefruit, Papaya, Passion fruit and many other types of fruit, as well as Sugar Cane, Coffee and Tobacco. I also noted the prickly trunk of the Floss-silk tree, which has the most beautiful pink and white flowers earlier in the year, and around its seeds it produces fluffy fibres that have been used to stuff pillows and cushions.
Swiss Cheese plants were in flower and forming fruits, which although they are poisonous when young are edible when fully ripe and starting to rot, but I can't claim to have ever tried one. Seeing this plant growing so well here in Tenerife is a far cry from the specimens you see back home in the corner of a lounge.
I was pleased to see Pineapples being cultivated too. I once made the news back in Cardiff for growing one of these exotic fruits and a caption on HTV Wales's news read Steve Andrews Welsh Pineapple Grower. It was my five minutes of fame before I moved over here.
Wandering around the gardens, full of bushes and trees, colourful flowers and climbing vines, with only lizards, birds and butterflies for company and the fleecy clouds over the mountains in the distance, my mind was not on the bustle of the streets of Puerto or the busy road outside. It was like I had entered a patch of paradise or the original Garden of Eden.
With thoughts like these on my mind, I spotted the water gardens down a pathway, and as regular readers will know, I happen to really like frogs so I wondered if there were any here. The pools and streams were covered in pink and yellow water lilies and other aquatic plants like Water Hawthorn were also growing well. Small Mosquito fish were everywhere darting about in the shallows or among the pondweed but I failed to spot any tadpoles or frogs.
I may not have found any amphibians but I had the pleasant surprise of seeing two donkeys that live in a paddock right next to one of the last ponds. I paused to say hello and take a picture of one drinking from the lily pool.
Making my way back I stopped off at an area with an impressive Dragon Tree in the centre. I got to thinking about how the Guanches are said to have held these trees as sacred and to have assembled for meetings under the large ones like the Drago Milenario in Icod.
Carrying on down the pathway I met the lady who was in charge and I asked her if there were any frogs in the gardens. Apparently they do live there but it seemed I had picked a bad day to see them.
I didn't mind because I was happy to have seen everything else apart from the restaurant, bar and shop, which I was now being shown and where I was treated to a glass of most excellent banana liqueur. As a perfect ending to a most enjoyable visit to Bananera el Guanche there was even a free bus waiting to take me back to Puerto.
Footnote: First published in the Tenerife Sun
Sadly since this was originally published the Bananera del Guanche gardens have closed down and are abandoned. It was a very beautiful place while it lasted and I can only hope that some day it will open again!
© 2008 Steve Andrews