Tomato-drenched crowds wading through a lake of passata at Valencia’s La Tomatina festival might be a familiar image, but it's not the only passionate and eccentric celebration of food to enjoy. There’s a smorgasbord of wonderfully bizarre food festivals around the world, ranging from the conventional to the questionable (ostrich testicles, anyone?). As Mexican radish carvers prepare their perishable sculptures for the Noche de los Rábanos (Night of the Radishes) on 23rd December, we bring you our shortlist of the best, and strangest, food festivals around the world.
1. Night of the Radishes, Oaxaca, Mexico
When? 23rd December every year
During Oaxaca’s long-running Noche de los Rábanos, the humble radish enjoys a spectacular, Cinderella-like transformation. The crunchy root is expertly carved into nativity scenes, celebrity figurines, animals and many other innovative shapes.
In what must be one of the world’s most distinctive Christmas celebrations, queuing spectators tour the city’s central plaza, admiring the intricate sculptures competing for the highly contested "grand prize".
Carved radish figurines at Noche de los Rábanos © Drew Leavy/Flickr Creative Commons
2. Roadkill Cook-Off, West Virginia, USA
When? Held annually in late September
Adventurous carnivores will find plenty to tempt their palates at West Virginia’s annual Roadkill Cook-Off. Crowds gather in the small town of Marlinton to watch chefs and amateurs rustle up dishes such as teriyaki-marinated bear, rack of raccoon and squirrel gravy.
Competing for cash prizes, entrants are bound by the rule that their menu must feature "any animal commonly found dead on the road". Once the grills have cooled, a square dance, beauty pageant and dog show provide extra entertainment.
3. Monkey Buffet Festival, Lopburi, Thailand
When? Held annually in November
Every November, Khmer-era temple Phra Prang Sam Yot hosts an extraordinary feast for the mischievous long-tailed macaques of Lopburi, Thailand. During the festival, the revered monkeys take a break from their usual antics to devour hundreds of kilos of beautifully arranged fruit.
Tourists soak up the spectacle as the monkeys ascend colourful pyramids of pineapples, dragon fruit and watermelon, graze on plates of bananas and grapes, and occasionally pause to swig from cans of soft drinks.
A macaque enjoys the buffet in Lopburi © Topten22photo/Shutterstock
4. World Testicle Cooking Championship, Kragujevac, Serbia
When? Held annually in late August
A passionate culinary showcase for testicles, or "white kidneys" in more genteel terminology, this lively Serbian festival pays homage to this "delicacy" considered to be a powerful aphrodisiac.
Cooks compete for the "Tastiest Dish", serving up reinvented pizza and goulash, and judges deliberate over who deserves the title of "The Ballsiest Man in the World": past winners include Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin.
5. Giant Omelette Festival, Bessières, France
When? Held annually on Easter Monday
Crowned with towering chef's hats and wielding vast wooden spoons, the Brotherhood of Giant Omelette Knights cut quite a dash as they stir the 15,000-egg omelette. The delicacy is prepared in the French village of Bessières on Easter Monday every year for the Giant Omelette Festival. Thousands of people observe the ceremonial cooking process, waiting patiently for their free sample of the supersized omelette.
The tradition has won followers in Francophone regions of the USA, Argentina and Canada, where sister fraternities have become equally handy with a huge skillet.
Giant Omelette Festival, Bessières © Tony4urban/Shutterstock
6. Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling, Gloucestershire, England
When? Held annually in May
Racing down Gloucestershire’s almost vertical Cooper’s Hill in pursuit of an 8lb Double Gloucester cheese is not an experience for the faint-hearted. Alternating between a gradient of 1:1 and 1:2, the grassy hill near the village of Brockworth is so steep and its terrain so rough that competitors, flanked by cheering crowds, often end up rolling after the cheese.
Despite the challenge, this traditional event still tempts cheese-rolling champions back year after year to defend their hard-won titles.
7. Fellsmere Frog Leg Festival, Florida, USA
When? Held annually in January
Guinness-certified as the largest frog leg festival in the world, this popular four-day event in Fellsmere, Florida has been feeding "frog pops" and "gator pounders" to hungry crowds since 1990.
Created as a low-key fundraising venture to improve recreational facilities for the city’s children, it’s now a stalwart of the quirky food festival scene, annually attracting thousands of visitors to taste gator tails and frog legs, browse craft stalls and take a spin on fairground rides.
Sautéed frogs legs © Piotr Krzeslak/Shutterstock
8. Pineapple Fest, Eleuthera, Bahamas
When? Held annually in early June
The Bahamas’ annual celebration of pineapple farming on the island of Eleuthera puts the spiky tropical fruit centre stage. Pineapple cooking and eating contests form the more mainstream focus of the weekend programme. Other events include the creatively named Pineappleman Triathlon and Little Miss Pineapple Princess Pageant.
9. Mushroom Festival, Pennsylvania, USA
When? Held annually in September
Now in its thirties, Pennsylvania’s Mushroom Festival honours the edible fungi with a weekend of eccentric events including an auction of painted concrete mushrooms, a mushroom cook-off and the "Cute-As-A-Button" baby photo contest. Fungi fans with a big appetite can fight it out in the National Fried Mushroom Eating Championship.
An assortment of edible mushrooms at the mushroom festival © Sicio/Shutterstock
10. Chinchilla Melon Festival, Chinchilla, Australia
When? February 14–17 2019
Hosted by the town of Chinchilla, Australia’s "melon capital", the biennial Melonfest puts a glut of watermelons to ingenious use.
"Melon Skiing" and the "Melon Dash for Cash" feature on the juicy sporting programme, while festivalgoers who’d rather not get sticky can buy melon-themed gifts or take little ones to listen to "Melon Story Telling".
For your very own foodie adventure get in touch with Rough Guides Tailor-Made Trips! Let your local expert know you'd like to explore the culinary delights of your preferred destination and they'll arrange experiences to keep your taste buds tingling.
Top image: Monkey buffet festival in Lopburi © Topten22photo/Shutterstock