Localicious: Salsa, Family Style!

art-0801-loca1

Salsa is a summer staple in our house, and we don’t just use it as a dip for chips. We add salsa to tacos, salads, baked potatoes, burgers, fajitas, eggs, and so much more. Salsa is super easy to make and there are not too many specifics – as long as there are tomatoes, onions, and chilies in your sauce it’s considered salsa.

Salsa variations are endless. Optional ingredients include cilantro, fruit (usually peaches, pineapple, or mango), veggies, avocado, corn, beans, and tomatillos for green salsa. The best part about making salsa is that it is pretty foolproof – I add ingredients, taste, and then adjust based on what flavor I am going for. It is also a super-easy cooking project to do with kids; you can use a hand chopper, blender or food processor. Most of the work is in counting ingredients and adding them to the mix.

art-0801-loca2

I chatted with two local family-run businesses that either grow salsa ingredients or help you grow salsa ingredients at home: Wyntour Gardens nursery of Redding and Julia’s Fruit Stand of Los Molinos. Summer and fall are the absolute best seasons for making salsa at home as we have a plethora of local tomatoes and produce available and nothing beats fresh and local!

Fern of Wyntour Gardens is their resident tomato expert. She recommends planting tomatoes in April and May, and depending on variety, they will be ripe and ready to harvest in June or July and can produce all the way through October and November. Her all-time favorite varieties are heirloom. They grow big, knobby and colorful, with less uniformity than other varieties. She also always plants some Early Girl variety for reliability as heirlooms can have some inconsistencies and can be more susceptible to disease. Fern regularly makes salsa at home, but claims there is no recipe – whatever is gathered from the garden goes into the mix!  Her favorite part about working at Wyntour is the people; stop by and visit Fern and the rest of the crew she works with … and maybe get some tips on growing salsa ingredients.

Julia’s Fruit Stand has been a staple on Hwy 99 since they started with a “big garden” in 2001. Julia’s is known for their heirloom tomato varieties and were one of the first in the North State to grow heirlooms. If you can’t make it to their fruit stand you can find Julia’s products at multiple farmers markets, including the Wednesday and Saturday markets in Red Bluff. You can gather nearly everything you need for salsa with one stop. In the summer Julia’s offers onions, peaches, nectarines, apricots and zucchini along with their tomatoes.

Salsa is low calorie and packed with nutrients and flavor. Tomatoes, chilies and cilantro contain vitamins A and C, and tomatoes also contain potassium and a powerful antioxidant lycopene. Any fruits and veggies you add to salsa will add healthy fiber and additional nutrients. This makes salsa not only a super-tasty contributor to a variety of dishes but also a very nutritious one. Below is a Peach Salsa recipe that I have been using the past couple of years to utilize excess peaches. The peaches provide a sweet punch to salsa and are also appealing to a younger crowd. Try it over pulled pork or with tortilla chips!

art-0801-loca3Peach Salsa:

  • 3 tomatoes
  • 2 peaches
  • 1 pepper (jalapeno, habanero, or a sweet pepper depending on spice preference)
  • ½  onion
  • ¼ cup cilantro
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Optional: 2 cloves garlic

We make this recipe in kids cooking classes I teach. We mix all the ingredients in a hand-pulled Chef ’n Chopper. The blades are contained so the ingredients get chopped with no danger to little fingers. Hand choppers are fun for helpers because they get to participate a bit more in the process. If you don’t have a hand chopper all of the ingredients can easily be added to a blender or food processor and processed until chopped and blended. Chunky or smooth is all a matter of preference. The longer the ingredients are processed the smoother they will get. If you prefer chunky you can leave a tomato or two out of the mix to roughly chop by hand then add to the finished salsa.

Once again, experimentation with salsa is encouraged; you might be surprised what your family can come up with!

Localicious is a monthly column celebrating food in the North State. If you would like to suggest a food-related business or organization, email us at localicious@northstateparent.com

Erin Bianchi
About Erin Bianchi

Erin Bianchi is a registered dietitian from Northern California. She has a huge passion for local agriculture and fermented foods. Erin owns Cook, a kitchen boutique in Red Bluff, CA, that carries kitchen tools, local foods, beer and wine.

Comment Policy: All viewpoints are welcome, but comments should remain relevant. Personal attacks, profanity, and aggressive behavior are not allowed. No spam, advertising, or promoting of products/services. Please, only use your real name and limit the amount of links submitted in your comment.


Leave a Reply