Tomatoes, peppers, strawberries in Greenland's Arctic valleys

Tue Mar 26, 2013 9:09am EDT
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By Alistair Scrutton

KANGERLUSSUAQ, Greenland (Reuters) - On the Arctic Circle, a chef is growing the kind of vegetables and herbs - potatoes, thyme, tomatoes, green peppers - more fitting for a suburban garden in a temperate zone than a land of Northern Lights, glaciers and musk oxen.

Some Inuit hunters are finding reindeer fatter than ever thanks to more grazing on this frozen tundra, and for some, there is no longer a need to trek hours to find wild herbs.

Welcome to climate change in Greenland, where locals say longer and warmer summers mean the country can grow the kind of crops unheard of years ago.

"Things are just growing quicker," said Kim Ernst, the Danish chef of Roklubben restaurant, nestled by a frozen lake near a former Cold War-era U.S. military base.

"Every year we try new things," said Ernst, who even managed to grow a handful of strawberries that he served to some surprised Scandinavian royals. "I first came here in 1999 and no-one would have dreamed of doing this. But now the summer days seem warmer, and longer."

It was minus 20 degrees Centigrade in March but the sun was out and the air was still, with an almost spring feel. Ernst showed his greenhouse and an outdoor winter garden which in a few months may sprout again.

Hundreds of miles south, some farmers now produce hay, and sheep farms have increased in size. Some supermarkets in the capital Nuuk sell locally grown vegetables during the summer.

Major commercial crop production is still in its infancy. But it is a sign of changes here that Greenland's government set up a commission this year to study how a changing climate may help farmers increase agricultural production and replace expensive imported foods.   Continued...

Kim Ernst, the Danish chef of Roklubben restaurant, which is nestled by a frozen lake near a former Cold War-era U.S. military base, looks over his greenhouse in Kangerlussaq March 5, 2013. REUTERS/Alistair Scrutton