La Tomatina in Buñol, Spain / Biel Alino/AFP/Getty Images

Whether it's tomatoes, oranges, pies or meringues, food isn't always for eating

Don’t play with your food. That was always the instruction round the dinner table, but head out into the big, wide world and you’ll find there are plenty of places where playing with your food is welcomed.

Every year on the last Wednesday of August, La Tomatina comes to the Spanish town of Buñol, just west of Valencia. This giant tomato fight has been going for more than 70 years, drawing thousands of people to the town’s main square, where they pummel each other with the fruit. The event has even led to spin-offs in other Spanish towns and in Colombia.

Tomatoes not your thing? Try the Battle of the Oranges in the Northern Italian city of Ivrea, where the story of a local rebellion against tyranny is reenacted, with fruit replacing weapons. It takes place during the town’s carnival in February. 

Alternatively, get together a few mates and form a team for the World Custard Pie Championship, which takes place every June. Fancy dress is par for the course and you can expect competition to be fierce. This year’s winners were The Custardteers, who beat Three Men and a Pie into second place.

On the dessert theme, Vilanova i la Geltrú, just down the coast from Barcelona, hosts Spain’s sweetest food fight, La Merengada, where meringue is the weapon of choice. The battle commences on Maundy Thursday, during the town’s annual Mardi Gras carnival.

Over on Greece's mainland, Clean Monday – the beginning of Lent – marks a huge flour fight in the town of Galaxidi. Expect post-apocalyptic scenes as the streets fill with clouds of flour and different coloured powders, and most people end up coated in a layer of grey or brown.