Tomatoes, Salsa and Pico de Gallo

When I was seven years old, my grandparents bought a small property in a "horsey" neighborhood of the San Fernando Valley in southern California. I spent my summers on horseback, hunting for the bantam chickens' eggs in the hay barn, and following the casual stable help around (and usually helping to clean stalls and fill water troughs). Roosters crowing outside the window woke me every morning. In spite of the hot summer weather and the absence of air conditioning in those days, it was an ideal childhood.

One of the stable workers, after learning that I was taking Spanish in school (a requirement in that locale) spent a lot of time quizzing me on vocabulary words. It was probably great for my grades, but at this point in my life about all I can remember is the Spanish word for butter, and how to conjugate the verb "to be."

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One of my daily chores was to water my grandmother's tomato plants in the sandy area behind the screened-in patio with a hole in the screen where the barn cat came and went. How those tomatoes could grow and produce in that otherwise barren, hot sand is beyond me, but they did.

I think that's when I learned to love tomatoes, both the growing and the eating. A few years later Dad and I started a small garden in our backyard to grow cherry tomatoes. We'd stand in the garden and eat the cherry tomatoes as soon as they were ripe enough. (I still do that. Cherry tomatoes, eaten on the spot, are still my reward for working in my garden.)

I'm still waiting for the bigger tomatoes in my garden to turn red; they're really late this year. The plants are full of green tomatoes, taking their own sweet time to change color. My one pepper plant is still only six inches tall, but I have plenty of sliced pepper strips, both frozen and dehydrated, from last year's bumper crop. This season's onions are harvested, cured and hanging in mesh bags, ready to use. What am I wishing for? Salsa!

Hubby and I like our salsa fresh and raw, but I have friends who prefer it cooked. Salsa can be prepared either way, and while it traditionally is made from tomatoes, jalapeño or chili peppers, onions and herbs such as cilantro, it can also contain garlic, a variety of pepper types, corn, black beans and even fruit. (Peach salsa is delicious!)

I don't really have a recipe, but I'll share my "salsa directions." This salsa is super-quick and easy to make: I just eyeball the proportions of chopped tomatoes (lots of them), onions, whatever peppers are ripe, and a big clove of minced garlic. Then I mix the juice of a lime, a pinch of cumin, salt and pepper to taste, and a pinch of sugar. No cilantro, thank you. I've heard that a person either likes cilantro or hates it. I'm in the hate-it category. Sometimes I use fresh parsley instead, but feel free to use cilantro if you like it.

This year I lost all my
transplants to a very late freeze and had to buy whatever was available, most of
them new-to-me varieties. It's an amusing story that you can read here

Salsa can be chunky with a bit of liquid, chopped smaller with more liquid, or run through a food processor or blender for a smoother consistency; it's up to you.

Can you can salsa? Of course. It'll be cooked, not fresh and raw obviously, but yes. There are canning safeguards you'd need to follow though. Supposedly you can water-bath-can salsa IF you use an approved canning recipe such as one in the Ball Book of Canning and Preserving (affiliate link). Those approved recipes have been tested extensively so that the rate of acidity and the canning time produce a safe-to-consume product, so don't change the proportions of ingredients.

If you pressure-can your salsa you can change up the recipe a bit, but be sure to can your salsa according to the time required for the vegetables you use. In other words, look up the time required to pressure can each of the ingredients you are using in your recipe, and use the longest time to can your salsa. Unless you're an experienced canner, stick to an approved, tested recipe for safety's sake.

Finally, suddenly, a few of my tomatoes began changing color...

I picked the cracked tomatoes - we've had a challenging year weather-wise, a cycle of dry spells and then several inches of rain, over and over, which can cause tomatoes to crack like this. We've been craving salsa and I could finally make some! They weren't completely ripe, but I had to slice the tops off anyway because of the cracks, and the bottom half of the tomatoes were ripe enough and perfect to use. I decided to chop up the cherry tomatoes and include them as well; they made the salsa very colorful. (No, the eggplants didn't go in the salsa.)

Salsa at last!

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While I was looking at recipes for this post, I wondered what the difference is between salsa and pico de gallo, since some of the recipes were almost identical. It turns out that pico de gallo is a type of salsa, but is always served fresh, never cooked. It's chunky and contains little liquid. It's made from chopped tomatoes, jalapeño peppers, onions, and cilantro.

Oh, I also remember that gallo means rooster in Spanish. The internet says that "pico de gallo" means "rooster's beak," but that young man who helped me with my Spanish vocabulary told me that it means "rooster's comb," because the tomatoes in the pico de gallo are red like a rooster's comb. True or not, I like his translation best.

Related Posts:
How to Can Tomatoes, No Matter What Kind You're Growing
A Comparison of 5 Heirloom Tomato Varieties
Harvesting and Preserving Green Tomatoes
How to Take Tomato Cuttings and Grow More Tomatoes
A Tour of My Spring Garden and the story about my search for tomato plants

How to make super-simple salsa.

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How to make super-simple salsa.


  1. Anonymous5:45 PM

    Did you grow up in Porter Ranch? I reared my children in Reseda & Northridge. Your salsa looks so yummy. Sandy in California.

    1. It was in the Hansen Dam area. :-)

  2. This looks so amazing!!! Thanks for sharing on Homestead Blog Hop!


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