There is nothing better than fresh summer fruits and vegetables and this is the time of the year for tomatoes. I have a dear friend who is from Mexico and she was visiting the farm a few years ago in August. After brushing the horses, feeding the pigs and helping collect eggs, we ended up at the garden on a pre-dinner collecting expedition. As we filled the basket with cucumbers, peppers, onions and tomatoes, Sandra exclaimed with delight over my abundant and over-sized jalapenos.
“Do you make pico?” she asked.
“Make what? I asked.
“Pico de gallo! You know fresh salsa!” I love salsa and I had made regular cooked salsa and tomato salads but never this mysterious pico de gallo.
Pico de gallo literally means “beak of the rooster” and it’s not entirely clear where the name comes from, though online discussion boards offer two possible ideas. One is that to calm fighting roosters, trainers would put the rooster’s head in their mouth and at first the rooster would peck the tongue similar to the bite of the hot peppers in the pico de gallo salsa. Another is that the finely minced ingredients looked like chicken feed. No matter where the name comes from, pico de gallo is a salsa that originated in Mexico.
In the kitchen, Sandra rummaged through the basket and selected two spectacular heirloom tomatoes, two jalapenos, and two smallish onions. After we finely diced all three ingredients we mixed them in a bowl and seasoned it with salt and pepper. That was it! I expected lime juice or cilantro or some other secret ingredient, but this was how Sandra’s mom had made it so that was that (though many variations do include cilantro and lime).
We split open a new bag of tortilla chips and dug in — and it was amazing! Sandra’s kids clustered around the bowl with my kids.
“I can’t stop eating this!”
“Wow, Mom this tastes even better than usual!”
“I don’t care if my lips are burning, give me another chip.” (This from one of my kids who had never willingly consumed fresh jalapenos before)
“Can we make more?”
The bowl emptied in five minutes flat. The two older girls began dicing more tomatoes to make another bowl and Sandra explained that the fresh heirloom tomatoes really made the pico taste incredible. Ever since that Sunday afternoon we have regularly made pico de gallo from the beginning to the bitter end of tomato season. Canned salsa is for the winter but pico is for the summer!
Sandra O’s Pico de Gallo
• 1 large tomato
• 1 large jalapeno
• 1 small onion
• salt and pepper to taste
1. Wash all ingredients and peel onion.
2. Finely dice the tomato, put into bowl.
3. Finely dice the jalapeno, test for heat level and dice with pith and seeds for a spicier result, remove for a milder version. Add to bowl.
4. Finely dice the onion and add to bowl.
5. Stir together and add salt and pepper.
Hints and Tips:
• We like fresh juicy beefsteak style heirloom tomatoes for pico de gallo but in a pinch any tomato will do, just remember the better the tomato the better the pico.
• Don’t be shy with the salt, add a bit taste and add a bit more if you want to ratchet up the flavor.
• If jalapenos scare you, this is wonderful with bell peppers (it’s just missing that magic spicy kick that I love) I make it with bell peppers for my husband.
• I find this makes a great condiment for scrambled eggs, over corn on the cob, and on top of baked potatoes as well as with quesadillas and other salsa-y applications. Sometimes I just eat it with a spoon, Mmmm.
Nicole G. Carlin is a Northwest Pennsylvania homesteader and educator who raises heritage-breed livestock on her 22-acre, restored Singing Wren Farm. Connect with Nicole at Smoldering Wick, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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