The feeling I have waiting for our spring garden to flourish is identical to that awful, impatient knot in your stomach that you had as a kid a few months before a big birthday or a particularly epic Christmas. We devote one whole weekend in late March or early May to tilling, buying fresh dirt, making no less than a dozen trips to Home Depot, and getting surprisingly sunburned. The boy creates an automatic watering system that inevitably transforms from a slow drip to a geyser a few times before the process becomes that well-oiled machine. We re-fortify our makeshift fence to keep Thing 1 and Thing 2 out of the garden while we’re not home, although we love watching them lay in the cool dirt under the shade of monstrous okra plants now.
After that one epic weekend, we wait. With the automatic watering system in place, there’s not really a need to spend copious amounts of time walking among the plantlings, except to whisper sweet nothings to them while I channel my inner mother Earth. After a few weeks, the glorious day of teeny tiny fruits arrives. I pour over each itty bitty jalapeno, bursting from its white flowery covering. It takes every ounce of self restraint to not pick the adorable green orbs that are the first cherry tomatoes. When the first pest dares to invade one of these new baby fruits, I savagely murder it with a large stick and double-layered gloves. You know – bug juice. Bleh.
Then these baby fruits start to fatten up and ripen. It’s always slow and subtle at first. Maybe 3 cherry tomatoes and a jalapeno or two are ready to be picked one morning. Or the parsley could use a small snipping. Then, in the blink of an eye, I’m making multiple trips from the garden to the kitchen with bowls full of ripened tomatoes, gargantuan okra spears that grew too quickly under my not-so-watchful eye, and dozens of jalapenos from our literally DOZEN jalapeno plants. There’s nothing better than the panicky feeling of, “How am I supposed to consume an entire kitchen table full of tomatoes and jalapenos?”
There are a few answers to that question. One remedy is to package them up and lovingly bestow them on neighbors or coworkers. Or cart to your parent’s house as a thank-you-for-raising-me-well gift. OR, you could take all of the glorious goods from a summer garden and make them into spicy garden salsa.
I did all of those things multiple times, but I only documented the salsa in photos.
Fresh garden salsa is quite a different animal than a homemade salsa that you’d make from canned tomatoes. The fresh tomatoes are sweeter and a little more acidic, hitting your mouth like a wall of summery freshness. Once all of the the ingredients are blended together, it takes on a bright, pinkish-red hue that can at first be reminiscent of the pink slime from Ghostbusters. But don’t let your mind dwell on that too long. Instead, take a crispy tortilla chip and dip it deep into the perfectly blended concoction of summer tomatoes, hot-as-hell jalapenos, sweet white onion, and juicy lime.
We made this one evening before our small group, a group of other young married couples in our same stage of life, came over to our house for the evening. It surpassed the free beer and wine as the chosen watering hole, and although the chips subsided to large crumbs, we were still finding ways to scoop this spicy freshness from bowl to mouth.
Like all salsa recipes, you can take whatever liberties you want with the recipe to help it appeal to your taste buds. Are you a lover of the lime (instead of a lover of the light, #mumfordandsons)? Squeeze in a few more than suggested. Do you have a Hispanic palate and crave spice that would make weaklings weep? Add an extra jalapeno or golden cayenne pepper into the food processor. Do you abide by the rule that if you add salt, you have to add a dash of sugar to balance it out? Go ahead. That’s the beauty of cooking with a garden; you must be creative to assure all of your hard work won’t go uneaten.
Even if you don’t have a garden in your own backyard or patio, this is the perfect excuse to grab your trendiest burlap bag, any mutt-looking dog with a bandana, and the lightest weight flannel you own to go to your local farmer’s market and support your neighboring farmers with all of the other hipsters.
Spicy Garden Salsa
- 2 1/2 lbs ripe tomatoes quartered
- 3 jalapenos roughly chopped
- 2 limes juiced
- 1/2 onion
- 2 tablespoons cilantro
- 4 cloves garlic smashed
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place all ingredients in the bowl of a large food processor, and pulse it forms a thick salsa. Taste test to see if you want to add any extra lime, onion, jalapeno, cumin, etc… Add salt and pepper to taste.