Why do people throw tomatoes?

Pelting hapless victims with bad fruit is one of our earliest forms of expression, dating back to the invention of the tomato. Rotten tomatoes are often associated with Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in Elizabethan London, but in actuality, tomatoes were still uncommon and weren’t even mentioned in the first English cookbook until 1752, nearly 150 years later.

Throwing produce, on the other hand, predates the tomato completely. The first reference came in A.D. 63 when Vespasianus Caesar Augustus was hit with turnips in the midst of a riot in Hadrumetum.

Rotten eggs were sometimes utilized as a derogatory weapon in religious and political protests. Documents dating back to the 18th century refer to people throwing rotten eggs at persecuted Methodists on the Isle of Man. The practice also made its way to the New World, as shown in a speech by Frederick Douglass who recalls bad eggs being lobbed to break up antislavery meetings. Food has always been used as a weapon due to its availability and low cost.

Given their size and ease of grasp, it seemed natural that tomatoes would finally make it to the main stage. The first reference to throwing these rotten vegetables at bad stage acts came in an 1883 New York Times article after John Ritchie was hit with a barrage of tomatoes and rotten eggs by an unpleasant audience in New York. “[A] large tomato thrown from the gallery struck him square between the eyes and he fell to the stage floor just as several bad eggs dropped upon his head.”

Clearly, tomato flinging is an undesirable kind of audience engagement by current standards. Yet, societal standards throughout history ensured that listeners could express their thoughts, whether positive or negative. Today, theater-goers typically sit quietly as if watching a movie, but before other forms of entertainment were available a rowdy crowd chanted, booed and — occasionally — threw rotten produce.

Next, find out about the world’s largest food battle.

La Tomatina Tomato Battle in Bunol, Spain, commemorates the tomato harvest with a traditional food fight. The event began in 1944, although it was not formally acknowledged until 1952. Every year on the final Wednesday of August, the world’s biggest tomato battle takes place, and the week-long celebration attracts about 30,000 people.

Today, an evolved theater crowd avoids throwing rotten produce from the audience, whether the show is entertaining or not. And pelting modern politicians with turnips would likely result in jail time. Even yet, the rotten tomato remains society’s preferred nonlethal weapon. And these overripe morsels have surely made their imprint on the spotlight.

Throw Tomato FAQ

What is La Tomatina in Spain?

La Tomatina is a tomato fight that happens in Buñol, Spain every year on the last Wednesday in August. Every year, tens of thousands of people go to celebrate the tomato harvest.

How did La Tomatina begin?

La Tomatina was founded in 1944, although it wasn’t formally recognized until 1952. A small number of individuals were supposed to be on their way to a parade in 1945. They were so engrossed that they didn’t see until one of them collided with another parade-goer, who collapsed on a stack of tomatoes from a market booth beside the road. The guy became enraged and began throwing tomatoes at the group, and others in the crowd ultimately joined in.

Why was La Tomatina banned?

After years of arrests, the event was prohibited in the early 1950s for being disruptive. However, after residents’ protested, the festival was permitted again and even became an official festival in 1957.

What do they do with the tomatoes after La Tomatina?

The formal tomato-throwing lasts around one hour. Fire engines are then sent in to water down the streets and buildings. Participants often rinse off with hoses provided by locals or go to the “Los Peñones” pool.


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