Laura López Terrón sees her vocation as helping people connect with nature.
The flower farmer founded a new permaculture project called Flaura located in northern Tenerife, that focuses exclusively on growing edible flowers while advocating for their gastronomic properties.
Flora thrives in idyllic Tenerife, the biggest of the Canary Islands archipelago, which has an outstanding biodiversity and a spectacular array of endemic species, meaning you can’t find them anywhere else in the world. In Tenerife, the proportion of endemism is believed to exceed 15 percent.
López Terrón knew no one on the island when she first moved there in 2017, and she hadn’t farmed professionally before. “At the beginning, it was hard to find an available plot of land; we basically spent our time walking around, trying to get neighbors to tell us of anyone who was interested in renting their land,” she says.
Her current plot—which is almost 11,000 square feet—is near the ocean, where a derelict greenhouse once stood. Since she took over, life has returned both under and above the soil, creating a whole new ecosystem, as she has tended her flowers following permaculture principles.
The surrounding volcanic, ocean-facing landscape is very different to the landlocked area where she grew up, El Bierzo, in northwestern Spain. López Terrón spent her childhood helping her family tend their cattle when she wasn’t doing homework.
After completing her degree in agricultural engineering, she lived in different countries around the world, working mostly in international development co-operation and tourism. However, she felt that something was lacking and she missed a connection with nature she experienced in childhood. “This is the place where I feel most at ease. I am very grateful [for] the life I have managed to build here,” she says.
The subtropical oceanic climate of the Canary Islands—including more than 3,000 hours of sunshine annually—means that she can grow flowers outside all year round. “My aim is to work hand in hand with nature. The challenge now is looking after the soil,” says López Terrón, who has developed a worm-composting system and is achieving an increase in biodiversity year after year. She considers her plot of land her “lab,” where she experiments to see how she can get the most out of her plants.
López Terrón has embarked on a mission to showcase the palette of flavors that edible flowers can deliver, starting with 120 varieties and now has lost count of how many she grows. Margaza (Argyranthemum canariense), a flower endemic to Tenerife, co-exists in harmony in her garden with wild mustard, poppies, papaya trees and cherry tomatoes, among others. “Being here in the field every day is the best school. Plants can teach you a lot about life,” she says.
She has established partnerships with some of the most talented chefs on the island, who have incorporated new layers of flavor to their menus thanks to her diverse crops. Diversifying has also been key to making the project financially sustainable, and while her main focus lies in growing flowers, she also offers consultancy in edible gardens, both for companies and private clients. Sometimes, she not only designs the gardens, but she also provides support in running them; others she only helps with the setup. Additionally, she runs workshops and welcomes visitors in her garden. The flowers that she doesn’t sell, she dehydrates and uses for infusions.
The books of Italian botanist Stefano Mancuso have been a great inspiration to López Terrón. Like Mancuso, she is fascinated by the world that hides behind plants. “If you think of our childhood, we all have eaten flowers. As adults, it’s all about their ornamental properties,” she says. “For most people, it is difficult to knock down that wall. To me, that means a disconnection with nature… I want people to know that what surrounds us is edible, [and] plants make the pyramid that sustains every living being on earth.”