Tomatoes, tomatos. They’re red, they’re juicy, they’re everywhere and above all… they’re tasty. Even though you could say it’s a pretty basic vegetable – or was it a fruit? – the number of recipes involving tomatoes that have been invented over the years is pretty insane. Most of us immediately think of Italy, where an almost never-ending list of sauces, dishes, sides and even drinks use tomatoes as their main ingredient. Honestly, what else does one need on a hot summer day other than a Caprese salad? More often than not, simplicity wins from complexity – in all aspects of life and most certainly when it comes to cooking.
However, originally, tomatoes have nothing to do with Italy. The plant originated in South and Central America and got brought to Europe during the so-called Columbian exchange, from where it rapidly conquered the rest of the world. Now, they’re pretty common wherever you go and it probably wouldn’t be an exaggeration if we said that at the moment it’s one of the most popular ingredients ever in hearty dishes. From a Bloody Mary over a marinara sauce to huevos rancheros: none of them could do without a good tomato.
But even though we use tomatoes all the time, we seldom take the effort to put the fruit in the spotlights. And, also, we’re very rarely aware of the great variety of tomatoes that’s on offer. As a way of solving that issue, the château de la Bourdaisière in France organises a very special event every year. During the Festival de la Tomate et des Saveurs, this year on September 10 and 11, it’s tomatoes wherever you look. And that in the middle of a spectacular, historical domain in the Val de Loire.
So, what should you expect from a tomato festival? Firstly, don’t expect you’ll be alone. Each year, about 8.000 tomato fanatics attend the event. Secondly, just like your regular festival, there’s a lot of entertainment to be found on-site. You get the chance to participate in funny activities, you’ll get to meet local producers, there are tomato-themed conferences and – of course – you can taste the goodies too. Otherwise it would just be cruel, wouldn’t it?
Thirdly, and maybe most importantly (tastings aside that is), the castle’s gardeners will be able to guide you through the Conservatoire national de la tomate where no less than 700 varieties can be found. A geeky festival, yes, but one we’d gladly attend!