Red, Ripe, and Roasted: Tomato and Garlic Festival, Pittsburgh, PA

Red, Ripe, and Roasted: Tomato and Garlic Festival, Pittsburgh, PA

Writing and eating in: Pittsburgh, PA

When I got home, my first words were: Fair warning, I have terrible garlic breath.

Why did I have garlic breath? Because I’d sampled my way through the annual tomato and garlic festival at Phipps Conservatory. Red, Ripe, and Roasted is a one day festival every year to celebrate two of my favorite foods in all their lovely varieties.

Most people are familiar with a handful of tomato varieties (plum, roma, grape, cherry) and the blanket term heirloom, but far fewer are familiar with various types of garlic. Since I’ve begun my informal study of local foods, the biggest lesson I’ve learned that there are more varieties of everything than I had previously imagined possible. Enon Valley Garlic grows nearly two dozen varieties of garlic.

Everyone at the Enon Valley Stand was so friendly and helpful! I had lots of questions, all were answered, some with samples of garlic. 🙂 In addition to selling heads of garlic, the folks at Enon Vally sell garlic vinegar, pickled garlic, and some garlic spreads, all of which were for sale and tasty, especially the pickled garlic. I lingered over all the varieties with the unique names: Metechi, Porcelian  Beauty, Italian Purple in an attempt to make differentiations and select a few to bring home. Ron, one of the owners, pointed out the spiciest and most pungent ones as I told him I like a good, strong garlic (he does too) and let me taste a couple straight up. All of them were spicy! But the two I tried bit back on different parts of my tongue. One was spicy up front and the other didn’t seem bad but hit the back of the throat hard on the way down.

Ultimately, I chose five heads of garlic at random:

Bogatyr: It’s good for cooking, fiery, and has pretty purple stripes.

Metechi: Strong but not hot, also with purple stripes.

Korean Red: The hottest garlic Enon Valley offers.

Music: Pronounced moo-sik, has just a few large cloves, and is wonderful eaten raw to preserve the health benefits from the allicins in garlic which are particularly high in this variety.

Tochliavri: A strong, spicy garlic with lots of small cloves.

So far, I’ve used the Music in some pesto with basil from Eden Hall and I’ve done a few things with the Tochliavri. The best thing I’ve done is make bruschetta with the Tochliavri. Just toast some good bread, then rub a clove of raw garlic over it, top with sliced tomato, salt lightly if desired and eat. The Tochliavri (or Red Torch) was perfect because it was strong enough to stand up to the slightly spicy Purple Cherokee tomatoes I bought from Blackberry Meadows farm, but neither flavor overpowered the other.

In addition to purchasing goodies, I watched some chef demos, tasted some roasted garlic, and enjoyed the outdoor garden at Phipps. If you missed it, its a yearly event so look out for it next August! And the market had much more than garlic and tomatoes. I even bought some honey from Goose Creek Gardens. I had to. I was told it had been bottled that morning. I’ve never had honey so fresh and it was delicious.

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