Salsas that make you Cha cha!

Spring has quickly turned into the Summer season, and the tomatoes and peppers are all starting to come in . . . which means that it is time to make salsa!

Growing up in Mexico, salsa was a big part of my diet. My love for spicy food began when I was very young, and I remember always having fresh salsa in the fridge, no matter what time of year. Green, red, and even yellow salsa were on the table for every meal.  

The day I helped my mom and I made salsa together, I was hooked! I enjoyed the process so much that I have been making fresh salsa ever since. There are many ways to make salsa – fresh, roasted, boiled, extra spicy or very mild, blended or chopped – and the ingredients are simple and fun to play with. Nowadays, people use all kinds of “chiles,” tomatoes, onion, garlic, and even fresh fruits like mango and peaches. However, salsa was not always a dipping sauce for tortilla chips. 

Salsa originated with the Mayan, Aztec and Incan people in the 1500s when it was only a combination of tomatoes, peppers and spices. Salsa was first used as a condiment for meat and fish and it was originally made with a “molcajete.” A molcajete is a traditional Mexican version of a mortar and pestle made from volcanic rock. It is used to grind spices and make salsa or dishes like guacamole.

Today, people all over the world enjoy salsa with a variety of foods and, if you are like me, you basically eat it with every meal. Mexican food restaurants will have some variety of salsa that  usually homemade and delicious.  As the top-selling condiment in the U.S., salsa has become commercialized over time and is now sold in large quantities in grocery stores. Although it can be tasty, there is nothing like a real fresh salsa with local ingredients, straight from the garden or market!  

Some “chiles” that I used in Mexico, and still use today, include chile piquin, morron, habanero, serrano, pasilla and jalapeño, of course. Tomatoes for salsa can include cherry, heirloom, and tomatillo. Great news! The “chiles” and tomatoes needed to create your own fresh salsa are growing locally right now!  

Joanna and Her Mom Cooking Together

You can find them at your local community garden or at the weekly Urban Harvest Farmers Market. I hope that my adventures in salsa will inspire you to make some fresh salsa this week and enjoy it with eggs, tacos, meat, fish, salad, chips, or just eat it with a spoon! And, since every day can be mother’s day, go eat some salsa with your mom if you can! 

Joanna Botvin
Youth Garden Educator

Joanna Botvin is a youth garden educator and projects coordinator with Urban Harvest. She was born in Monterrey, Mexico, and moved to Houston at the age of 12.  Gardening, farming, cooking, teaching, and being in nature are her passions.  She is the owner and operator of a kitchen garden consulting business, Just Bloom.