DAEGU KOREA

DAEGU | Dalseong Tomato (“RED”) Festival 달성 토마토 축제

May 16, 2015

DAEGU // DALSEONG TOMATO ("RED") FESTIVAL 달성 토마토 축제DAEGU // DALSEONG TOMATO ("RED") FESTIVAL 달성 토마토 축제DAEGU // DALSEONG TOMATO ("RED") FESTIVAL 달성 토마토 축제DAEGU // DALSEONG TOMATO ("RED") FESTIVAL 달성 토마토 축제

tomato stacking contest

DAEGU // DALSEONG TOMATO ("RED") FESTIVAL 달성 토마토 축제

A real conversation regarding the above photo:
Me: I wish I could take this little tomato girl character home with us
Sly: What would you even do with it?
Me: I don’t know. Put the cats on it and take photos?
Sly: Um.

DAEGU // DALSEONG TOMATO ("RED") FESTIVAL 달성 토마토 축제

super sweet tomato beverage

DAEGU // DALSEONG TOMATO ("RED") FESTIVAL 달성 토마토 축제DAEGU // DALSEONG TOMATO ("RED") FESTIVAL 달성 토마토 축제DAEGU // DALSEONG TOMATO ("RED") FESTIVAL 달성 토마토 축제

where’s waldo?

DAEGU // DALSEONG TOMATO ("RED") FESTIVAL 달성 토마토 축제

a very scientific looking clock

DAEGU // DALSEONG TOMATO ("RED") FESTIVAL 달성 토마토 축제

Another weekend, another festival!

On Saturday we (got lost as we) drove back  the same area where we hiked Mt. Biseul the previous weekend to attend the “Red Festival” in Dalseong — a farm-centric (and weirdly, tech-y) county (?) known for its excellent tomatoes.

Nongong  Chal tomatoes are full, fleshy and excellent in color and sweetness thanks to the long sunny days in their growth period. The mild climate makes the quality of the tomatoes excellent. Cheongsol Agricultural Corporation, made up of organic farmers, uses microbes, fermented fertilizers, wood vinegar, and natural vinegar to produce environment-friendly tomatoes with firm flesh and delicious tastes. Tomatoes are a low-calorie health food, rich in vitamins, minerals and organic acids.

This was the inaugural year of the Dalseong Tomato Festival and as usual, we had no idea what to expect. The website spoke of tomato water fueled water gun fights, finding a ring in giant pit of tomatoes, tomato eating contests, “spaghetti for 500 people,” and tomato wine tasting. It sounded both bizarre and fun.

The festival itself stretched along the road in front of the science museum and was moderately sized. In addition to the usual street vendors selling stuff on a stick, there were tomato cooking demonstrations (seeds scooped and flesh grilled seemed to be the most popular method of cooking tomatoes), tomato wine (like drinking tomato port), tomato plants for sale, and guess how much the tomato weighs games. Families lined the streets, setting up tents in the grass or under whatever puny tree provided shade. Kids ran around the streets soaked with tomato juice, filling up their water guns with tomato water from huge barrels placed in the street, and shooting one another. Oddly enough, none of the kids wore swimsuits.

We walked around for a bit checking out all the vendors. Sly bought a hot dog. It was a hot day and the sun blared down directly overhead. The idea of a nice, cold glass of slightly salty tomato juice sounded refreshing. Sly eagerly handed over 1,000₩ for two cups of juice then we simultaneously took a sip. Our immediate reaction was the same: WHOA! It tasted like a tomato smoothie — very thick texture and borderline cloyingly sweet — as if the tomatoes had been pureed and mixed with some kind of thick sweet syrup. The flavor was unexpected to say the least. Not all together bad, but…interesting.

People bought huge boxes of tomatoes which made us curious– besides pizza, how did Koreans eat tomatoes? We couldn’t think of a single Korean dish that used tomatoes. A guy walked by eating a tomato like an apple and then we remembered that our CSA box included tomatoes as part of the fruit add-on. I know tomatoes are technically fruit but it’s interesting how two different cultures interpret the tomato. For us, we could not imagine tomatoes as not being savory, for Koreans, it seems the opposite held true. Even on Korean-style pizzas, the tomato sauce is sweet.

When we got too hot we went inside the science museum and scoped out the cafeteria, the gift shops, and some of the (free) exhibits in the main lobby. In the (marginally) cooler museum we watched through the window as kids jumped through the water sprinkler/fountain while families munched on tomatoes and set up camp under the shady elevated part of the museum.

DETAILS | DALSEONG TOMATO (“RED”) FESTIVAL 달성 토마토 축제

LOCATION + INFO | Sang-ri, Yuga-myeon, Dalseong-gun, Daegu, South Korea — in front of the Daegu National Science Museum. Plenty of street parking. Bathrooms (and showers!) and food vendors available. This festival is nothing like what you would find in Spain — maybe a more contained family-friendly version? If you don’t want to dance around in tomato muck, you don’t have to, and certainly nobody would dare spray or throw a tomato at you here unless you were in the pit.
COST | FREE
ACTIVITIES | All kinds of tomato contests including finding a ring in a pit of tomatoes, tomato water fights, bouncy obstacle courses, music, spaghetti for 500 people (not sure how that worked), RC and motorized kiddy car rentals, tomato weight guessing games, a parade, tomato wine tasting, cooking demonstrations, bulk tomatoes for sale, and tomato tossing games
GOOD FOR | Kids. We had fun but the festival seemed more geared toward families though I could see it being really fun with a group of like-minded friends that wanted to play around in tomato sludge. Kids especially loved playing in the tomato pits and squirting each other with water. There’s nothing that said adults  not allowed but I think it would have been kind of weird to go into the pits with the kids without having a kid with us — or maybe just a few other adults… The science museum is also very kid friendly — lots of playgrounds, a fountain that kids can run through, and then inside there are lots of hands-on exhibits, a planetarium, and a theater.
TIPS | There are a lot of newly constructed buildings in this part of town — and like no mature trees until you hit the mountains. In other words – no shade unless you go under the building. Bring a hat, or, if you’re with a family/kids, be like a Korean and bring your own tent and outdoor seating mats.

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  • Karen May 18, 2015 at 1:12 am

    You’ve inspired me to look up all the fun festivals in NC. I have been to a few, but never looked at the whole list of possibilities!

    • veronika May 18, 2015 at 11:52 am

      Yay! I love little and local festivals! The more bizarre, the better. I’m looking forward to see what you find!

  • funnelcloud rachel May 19, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    You weren’t kidding about the festivals! This is so weird/cool. I mean who doesn’t want to mash tomatoes in their siblings’ hair?!

    My first thought when I read the title was…do they eat tomatoes in Korea? I can’t really even recall tomatoes in East Asian food at all. I figured maybe I’m just a dumb American and I don’t know much about authentic Korean food, because the only Korean dishes/ingredients I could come up with were kimchi, gochujang, bulgogi, japchae, and Korean fried chicken… 🙂 No tomatoes! I’m glad that you had the same response to the tomato festival! So curious that it is treated like a sweet fruit. (I was really hoping that drink was an extra-spicy Korean Bloody Mary!)

    • veronika May 19, 2015 at 4:05 pm

      We were talking to a Korean friend about the festival. The first thing he said was, “oh, tomato wine!” Huh? I thought it was just a festival oddity, but is that a thing?

      i can’t quite tell if tomatoes as a sweet fruit is a result of it being classified as a ‘fruit’ or if it’s because Koreans put sugar on everything — like potatoes. WHY IS THERE SUGAR ON POTATOES??? OR CORN DOGS?

      I also heard that there are cakes with tomatoes on top…because it’s a fruit. No.

      I’m with you on wanting that drink to be a bloody mary — that would have been amazing. Somehow I think if it were a bloody mary it would end up turning into some weird tropical drink with tons of sugar and like maraschino tomatoes. Shudder.

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