Red, Ripe and Roasted | Food | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Red, Ripe and Roasted

Two of my favorite culinary co-conspirators are tomatoes and garlic. And it seems the fine folks at Phipps Conservatory agree. This Sun., Aug. 16, is the fifth annual "Red, Ripe and Roasted," a tomato and garlic festival. Rain or shine, the celebration of tasty tomatoes and garlic runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The free day-long event focuses on both the fruit and the fragrant seasoning. On the schedule: cooking demonstrations, information from environmental groups and plenty of kid-friendly activities.

"It's a celebration of local harvest, enjoying the bounty of late summer," says Jordyn Melino, program assistant for education and horticulture at Phipps.

All the tomato-and-garlic goodness is for a worthy cause, too. Bring a bag of produce to donate to the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank, and you'll receive free admission to Phipps' indoor gardens, as well.

The expansive front lawn of Phipps will host a farmers' market -- perfect for grabbing up plenty of different offerings of locally grown tomatoes (in case your own garden isn't overrun yet). Phipps' own café will have tasty treats for sale, and Enon Valley Garlic will offer bulbs.

Only the most adventurous kids may want to sample raw garlic, but at the outdoor garden there will be plenty to keep them occupied. There'll be a scavenger hunt to find salsa ingredients growing in the garden, and a pot-a-plant exercise where they can plant a bulb of garlic. Kids can also learn how to build a solar cooker out of a shoebox. Sounds like the kids are having all the fun!

Home gardeners can compete for the honor and glory of having grown a prize-winning tomato, so bring your best (or worst). A panel of celebrity judges includes the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's "Backyard Gardener" Doug Oster, urban-garden guru Mindy Schwartz and green chef Kitty Leatham, among others. 

Prizes will be awarded in categories such as "biggest" and "smallest." Plus, there's a special category dear to the hearts of any gardeners who've looked puzzled at the knobby fruit of their vines -- "ugliest."