It’s Tomatina time, that famous of food fights involving the tomato. This ‘festival’ has been around for 70 years and takes place in the town of Bunol near the Valencia region in Spain. Its inauspicious beginnings apparently involved a parade, some youth and a rage-inciting incident expressed through the throwing of some local produce.
Now it’s a ‘thing‘ and people travel here from all over the world just for the opportunity to pelt each other with a truckload of tomatoes. Believe it or not, there are even guidelines on when and for how long you can do so.
The festival takes place the last Wednesday of August and there is now an admission fee to participate. Town officials say this is to limit the number of participants for safety reasons.
But I say “why waste good tomatoes?” Would a developing nation hold a food fight festival with the little food they have to feed their population? Highly unlikely. Such is the whimsy of privilege and abundance.
Tomatoes don’t even originate in this part of the world. They were expropriated from Mexico by Spanish explorers of the time and are now found throughout the world. What would Italian pizza or Spanish paella be without tomato?
Chicken or egg?
To-may-to or to-ma-to?
Tomato is botanically a fruit but used and consumed as a vegetable. It belongs to the nightshade family of plants Solanaceae which also includes eggplant, potato and bell peppers. Besides being the centre of a dish and accompanying countless others, the tomato also has health benefits. It is most famous for its naturally occurring anti cancer chemical, lycopene. This antioxidant is best obtained when the tomato is cooked.
Tomatoes also contain vitamin C, beta carotene (vegetable source precursor to vitamin A), manganese, vitamin E and numerous other phytonutrients. It is also linked to heart health and bone health. Check out the web and virtually every cookbook known to humankind for any number of recipes involving tomatoes.