Like the rest of Spain, the rule in the Canary Islands is that any excuse is good enough for a fiesta, all manner of saints are celebrated, animals are ritually dunked in the ocean, gigantic hearts are made of fruit and flowers, teams from rival streets in a village shout insults at each other, and, of course, there is the fiesta to end all fiestas – Carnival. However, perhaps the oddest reason for partying and feasting is the humble spud.
Yep. The Magnificent Potato has its very own festival in the village of Vilaflor on Tenerife in the Canary Islands.
Vilaflor is the heart of the Canarian potato industry, so it’s only fitting really. Rich, volcanic soil plus a mild, but not extreme climate in Spain’s highest village are ideal for agriculture, but its steep hill sides not so much. The historical answer was to terrace the slopes, with flat but fairly small platforms which also help to prevent soil erosion.
Canarian potatoes are renown in Spain, but perhaps more of them another time. The festival's date, like so many things on this island paradise varies from year to year, last year it was held mid July, but this year it was in May. It is delightful in it non-touristy-ness, so you do need a reasonable level of Spanish to follow it. Mine is far, far from perfect but I was okay.
Apart from a free feast of a stew heavy on the potatoes, of course, (including a glass of wine too), the weekend comprises displays and memorabilia from the village’s early days. Even today, potatoes remain important to its economy. Tourists do find there way to this tranquil spot, but not enough to base an entire village economy on it.
There are also demonstrations of charcoal making, which is something else for which the area, on the edge of the pine forest, was famous. Not something I expected to fascinate as much as it did. Last year there was also a very atmospheric story telling session under the stars, and a talk about those very same celestial bodies.
The stars of the show, however, were Mr and Mrs. Potato. These figures, made entirely from potatoes and wire were placed one at each entrance to the village from the main highway……just hope the spuds were still edible by the time they were taken down! If you visit the Canary Islands, and want to see something "different" and "authentic" check out the dates for the festival on the Vilaflor town hall website, Vilaflor makes everyone welcome, I promise!