Melbourne Tomato Festival 2015 recap

If ever there was any doubt that the humble tomato is an ingredient that inspires love and devotion (and a willingness to queue), Sunday's inaugural Melbourne Tomato Festival emphatically put paid to that.

Held at the beautiful Farm Vigano on Melbourne's northern fringe, the festival attracted a sell-out crowd of around 2400 people who came to buy, eat, cook, observe, listen and talk all things tomato.

Melbourne food writer Rita Erlich, who helped open the festival, said the tomato was a metaphor for a healthy society.

"It grows in clusters," she said. "It comes in all sizes, shapes and colours. It goes with everything and it encourages sociability and community."

There was certainly plenty of opportunity for sociability and community as people queued good-naturedly to enter the Mint Inc marquee. Inside the sizeable tent with its stage and video screens, cooking demonstrations by Karen Martini, Rosa Mitchell, Frank Camorra, Melbourne Tomato Festival founder and organiser Guy Grossi, Thermomix guru Dani Valent and famed Sicilian food preservationist Fabrizia Lanza covered dishes from spaghetti alla checca to chilli tomato sorbet and gazpacho.

Elsewhere on the grounds a cluster of tents featured food from the likes of 400 Gradi (pizza), Enoteca Sileno (pasta) and Cavallini (cannoli), while the Grossi family's latest venture, a gelati van dubbed Gelato Tino, had its first workout. An Italian brass band played on as customers tried to choose between salted caramel, raspberry and rosemary, and Ligurian honey flavours.

A farmers market sold a staggering variety of tomatoes, and workshops in passata making demonstrated what could be done with the bounty. There were also lessons in growing tomatoes and a discussion about the future of food in Australia.

The mix of the practical, the philosophical and the sociable ensured a successful day, as did the presence of many members of the Grossi family (decked out in covetable red Melbourne Tomato Festival t-shirts) making sure everything ran smoothly.

And so it did, well enough that many in the crowd will no doubt be marking the date in their diary for the return bout next year. As will Guy Grossi.

"I was so happy to see so many people come together to celebrate the tomato harvest and the earth," he says. "To see such a wonderful sense of community around is inspiring."


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