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Food Fight!

Every year, people gather in a Spanish town for La Tomatina, the world’s biggest food fight.

A man wearing goggles in the center of a tomato covered crowd throws crushed tomatoes into the air.

© Donvictorio/Dreamstime.com

Everyone who attends La Tomatina expects to get messy.

Thousands of people from all over the world traveled to Buñol, Spain, in August for La Tomatina, the biggest food fight on the planet. There was only one weapon in this friendly war: tomatoes.

La Tomatina takes place every year on the last Wednesday in August. Buñol officials are totally in on the fun. On the morning of the event, 120 tons of overripe tomatoes are brought into town by truck. Meanwhile, shop owners cover their storefronts with plastic. Participants put on old clothes and often don eye goggles. Everyone knows things are about to get messy.

The fight begins at noon. For safety reasons, there are a few rules. No one is allowed to carry or throw hard objects. Tomatoes must be squashed and softened before they are thrown. Also, everyone must stop throwing tomatoes when they hear the boom of a water cannon at the one-hour mark. Beyond that, the fight is a free-for-all. It’s crowded, chaotic, and extremely messy. But that’s what people love about it. After it’s all over, officials hose down the town, and it’s business as usual until August rolls around again!

© Donvictorio/Dreamstime.com

La Tomatina dates back to 1945, when some kind of food fight broke out in the streets of Buñol. No one is certain about the origins of that first battle, but it inspired town officials to turn tomato pelting into an annual event. Not everyone is a fan. Many people criticize the festival for wasting food. But officials say they use only tomatoes that are low quality and on the verge of rotting. They wouldn’t be good for anything else.

No doubt, thousands of people—and squishy tomatoes—will head for Buñol again next year.

Fun Fact

© Andrii Bezvershenko/Dreamstime.com, © fotokostic—iStock/Getty Images Plus; Animation Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

If you plant a few tomato slices in some soil, it’s possible to grow a new tomato plant!

Terrible Tomatoes?

Painting of a woman in the 1600s holding up a tomato and saying yikes.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, The Jack and Belle Linsky Collection, 1982 (1982.60.32), www.metmusem.org, © PixaHub/stock.adobe.com; Photo illustration Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Anyone who’s ever had a pizza can tell you that tomatoes are big in Italy. In fact, they’re staples in many European kitchens. But for hundreds of years, Europeans feared tomatoes.

Originally from the Americas, tomatoes made their way to Europe in the 1500s. The Aztecs, people who lived in what is now Mexico, ate tomatoes. But Europeans grew them only as pretty plants. That could be because around this time, a British botanist (a scientist who studies plants) named John Gerard wrote that tomatoes shouldn’t be eaten. The tomato plant was “of ranke and stinking savour,” Gerard said. In other words, it was pretty much poison.

It didn’t help that, over the years, European kings, queens, and nobles sometimes died after eating tomatoes. No one realized that the tomatoes weren’t the problem. Wealthy people often ate off fancy plates made of pewter, which contained a lot of lead. Unlike tomatoes, lead is toxic.

During the 1700s, European settlers in what’s now the United States started growing tomatoes. They dared to eat them and survived. It wouldn’t be until the 1800s that people in Europe accepted these fruits and started inventing delicious recipes—like cheese and tomato pizza.

Tenochtitlan, Tlacopan, and Tomatoes

A tomato goes into a face on an Aztec calendar.

© Luisrsphoto, Hyrman/Dreamstime.com; Animation Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

When Europeans set foot in the Americas, they found more than just tomatoes. The Aztecs had an advanced civilization that thrived for hundreds of years in what is now Mexico. They built cities, created calendars like the one shown here…and grew tomatoes (they called the fruit tomatl).

You can read more about the Aztecs at Britannica!

WORD OF THE DAY

besmirch

PART OF SPEECH:

verb

Definition:

: to cause harm or damage to (the reputation of someone or something)

Definitions provided by
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Criss Cross

Each of these foods is native to the Americas. See if you can figure out where they go in the grid.

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