The love apple develops a bit of a bite in the annual Tomatina festival in Bu$ol, eastern Spain, where every year more than 20,000 people throw 100 tonnes of fruit at each other on the last Wednesday in August.
But is the tomato a fruit? In 1887 the US Supreme Court ruled that:
"Botanically speaking, they are the fruit of a vine . . . but in the common language of people . . . these are vegetables." The tomato has gone on to become the third most consumed vegetable in the US: cucumbers can hardly catch-up. In Bu$ol, the tomatois eaten in huge paellas on Tuesday night, splattered all over the streets on Wednesday, and picked from the fields on Thursday. Locally-grown pro duce is not used in the Tomatina fight; it is too expensive.
Reportedly established in 1945, Tomatina has grown from either a small-town anti-Franco demonstration or an amicable food fight between friends (you can take your pick of explanations) to a week-long fiesta involving dances and drinking as well as the hour-long splat-fest. The trick, apparently, to savouring Tomatina to the full is twofold: before throwing, first squash or pierce your tomato, and second, aim at the opposite sex.
It gets quite saucy in Bu$ol. Few people wear the protective goggles favoured by seasoned fighters to deflect the crimson haze; many wear extremely little. For one hour on a hot Sunday morning in Spain, everyone says "Tomato" - and no one calls the whole thing off.