Last Saturday I went to the historic town of Carouge in Geneva which was hosting the 16th Fete de la Tomate or Festival of Tomatoes. The two day festival celebrated different variety of tomatoes grown locally, in home gardens and organically by farmers.
Tomato cultivation and production is very popular in Switzerland and this was visible with over 50 different varieties of tomatoes that were showcased during this fete.
The festival open to locals, tourists and customers had a free tomato tasting exhibition wherein customers could taste and choose from the several local and exotic choices available to them. For tomato enthusiasts, cultivators and gourmands relishing these delicious juicy fruits in rich reds, greens and yellows of every shape and size – cultivating tips, culinary advice among other knowledge sessions on tomatoes were organized by experts, farmers and bakers.
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Several kinds of determinate (usually home grown in containers) and indeterminate(the vining type that fruit, ripen and flower all at the same time and produce in bulk) species of the fruit were at display alongside other fresh vegetables such as bell pepper, carrot, cucumber, broccoli and aubergine. Visitors could taste from the assorted tomato arrangements and pick their choice of tomato at extremely reasonable prices.
Heirloom or Heritage Tomatoes
The blackish red cherokee purple, beefsteak varieties such as brandywine, cherry tomatoes, tangy sweet green zebra, long pink tomatoes, early girl, yellow galinas, Aunt Ruby’s German Green, big rainbow tomato, Roma tomatoes and several other heirloom and cultivars were showcased to taste.
Several cultivars of cherry tomatoes were offered on sale along with fresh vegetables, fruits and berries. Most of these tomato cultivars and hybrids were of indeterminate varieties which are usually very sweet to taste.
More than a dozen variety of beefsteak, brandywine and green zebra tomatoes were available at discounted rates – much cheaper than super markets such as Migros and Coop – the largest super market chains in Switzerland.
Marmande tomatoes, gold rush currants-two very popular tomatoes, along with their saplings for garden connoisseurs were demonstrated for sale. The unique selling point of these tomatoes over and above their discounted rates was that these were handpicked, some of them organically grown and were fresh in taste.
Fruit & Vegetable Art
A huge decoration of vegetables, beautifully and symmetrically assorted in the middle of this exhibition reminded me of the floral décor in Switzerland on the streets and in gardens. It was also evocative of the floral and colorful Rangolis we make at such occasions and events back home in India. Another stall had experts and trainers teaching vegetable carving especially pumpkin/water melon carving and salad decor to enthusiasts and children.
A ‘Farm to Fork’ Feast
Tomato recipe contests, salad decor workshops and other cooking competitions were organized as a part of this two day festival.
Fresh Ratatouille salads, country breads and cheese, cassoulets, stew made of meat and vegetables, stuffed tomato preparations, barbequed meat, tomato tarts, pesto and tomato galette’s were served with different variety of country breads, cheese, tomato pastes, sauces and ketchups. Hors d’oeuvre or appetizers such as Gazpacho (a drink made of tomato, celery and vegetables) were served to fight the heat on this summery afternoon at several stalls and mini- cafes at the venue. My personal favourite stall was the one where several tomato chutneys, sauces / ketchups, and pastes were stacked for sale along with freshly made jams and marmalades. These stalls were one way to witness the culinary talents of farmers, food artists and bakers. Piping hot roasted and baked tomato preparations were among other delectable savouries at the stalls for foodies.
The event also saw music artists playing the Alphorn native to the Swiss saluting the spirit of these local food artists, cooking experts and culinary enthusiasts experimenting with tomatoes!