Pico de Gallo Week!
What happens when the tomatoes, cilantro, sweet onions, and Serrano peppers are all ready at the same time at Valley Flora? Fresh salsa is what happens! With the exception of fresh limes – which we WISH we could grow – all the ingredients for homemade pico are in your Harvest Basket this week.
In Mexican cuisine, pico de gallo (Spanish pronunciation: peeko day guy-yo, literally translated “beak of the rooster”) is also called salsa fresca (fresh sauce), salsa picada (minced or chopped sauce), salsa Mexicana (Mexican sauce), or salsa bandera (flag sauce, because of the colors – red tomatoes, white onions, and green chilis). But no matter what you call it, it’s a fresh, uncooked condiment made from chopped tomato, onion, and chilis (typically jalapeños or serranos). You can add other ingredients, like lime juice or apple cider vinegar, fresh cilantro, cucumber, radish, or fruits such as mango or watermelon.
Where does the term “pico de gallo” come from? According to some sources, it’s so named because it was originally eaten with the thumb and forefinger, resembling the actions of a pecking rooster.
Which reminds me of a curious factoid: the spice in your hot peppers this week is due to a compound called capsaicin, which is found in all hot peppers (some more than others; for instance, habañeros and Sichuan peppers have a higher concentration of capsaicin than a poblano or a jalapeño; sweet bell peppers actually have none due to a recessive gene). Most of the capsaicin is concentrated in what is called the “placental tissue”: the white “Styrofoam” pith inside the pepper, and not so much in the flesh. This is a useful tidbit to know in the kitchen because if you want to minimize the kick in your fresh salsa, clean the pith out of your Serrano peppers before you dice them up. On the other hand, if you like it hot, chop it all up and toss it in!
But here’s where it gets very cool on evolutionary terms: As it turns out, mammals are the only animal family that is affected by capsaicin (and thus experience the mouth-burn of hot peppers). Birds, on the other hand, are not affected by it (so roosters truly can peck at your pico de gallo without catching their weird little tongues on fire). Why? Because evolutionarily, pepper seeds were dispersed by birds. The bright colors of pepper fruits (reds, oranges, purples, yellows!) attract birds, who can painlessly peck into them, eat their seeds, fly away, and poop them out somewhere else. Mammals on the other hand might only get an unpleasant bite or two of a hot pepper before they turn tail and run for a glass of milk (or bread, or rice) to cool their mouths down.
I was relieved to learn this after many years of worrying about the seagulls at the South Jetty in Bandon. When I was a kid, an uncle used to take me down there and play pranks on the seagulls: primarily, dousing Wonder Bread with Tabasco hot sauce and tossing it up in the air to the gulls. He thought it was the funniest thing on earth; I felt sorry for them.
Little did we both know that the joke was on us.
Here’s a Pico de Gallo recipe. Adjust the heat to suit your mammalian tastebuds.
- 1 1/2 cups seeded, diced tomatoes
- 1/4 cup diced onion – red or sweet onion
- 1 tablespoon diced serranos
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- Juice of 2 limes
- 2 tablespoons cilantro, plus extra for garnish
- Salt and pepper
In a bowl combine all ingredients. Enjoy on tacos, with chips, over rice and beans, etc.
Strawberries Still Available by the Flat!
The strawberries are booming again (sweeter than ever with all this heat) and we have plenty to fill special orders. If you would like to order a flat (or two), email us your name, pickup location, phone number, and the number of flats you would like. We will deliver to your pickup site. Flats are $35 each, 12 heaping pints to a flat.
In your share this week:
- Walla Walla Sweet Onions
- Head Lettuce
- Tomatoes – Red Slicers & Heirlooms
- Hot Peppers
This means that some pickup locations will receive it this week, others next week – or in a future week.
The Valley Flora Crystal Ball: What MIGHT be in your Share Next week
Remember, no promises!
- Walla Walla Sweet Onions
- Sweet Peppers
Please note: all of our produce is field-rinsed, not washed. We recommend you wash all of your produce before eating it.
For recipes and ideas, check out these links:
Our own collection of recipes that you can contribute to
Our website’s recipe “search engine,” where you can hunt down recipes by ingredient
A vast collection of recipes, searchable by one or multiple ingredients
A storehouse of recipes, searchable by ingredient
A Washington farm that has a good collection of seasonal recipes