By Roberta Bailey
All that seems predictable with the weather and seasons is that they will be unpredictable and erratic. Winter was a bit of a no-show. We tapped our maple trees in February and pulled the taps by mid-March. Red maple buds swelled in early March, usually a sign that the sugaring season is done. But not this year. The heat wave in March that shut down the sap flow had me thinking that the ice cream stands should be opening soon. And one day in early April, I was looking at the swelling plum buds and blossoms and I had an instant of panic that I had not planted out my onions, only to remind myself that it was too early.
The tree swallows returned close to two weeks early. I timed much of my orchard work around their swooping and chortling nest making time. Thirty-five birdhouses surround the orchard, and the swallows make it feel like a magical place.
The peepers had a long spring season for their chorus practice. I kept having to stop and look at the calendar. Should I start my squash and cucumber seedlings yet? Count backward from their planting date. I could not take my cues from the outdoors.
Now that summer is here and the plants are in the ground, I am taking my cues from the ripening vegetables. Those first tender harvests of broccoli and zucchini are divine reminders of why we do this work. And the height of it all is fresh salsa season. Fruit and cilantro, then tomatoes and hot peppers and every combination of vegetable and garden spices. Chips and fresh salsa for lunch. Or wait until supper and add a cold beverage. Ah, summer.
Red Onion Salsa
2 c. red onion, chopped very fine
1/2 c. minced fresh cilantro (packed)
1 c. minced parsley (packed)
2 c. fresh ripe tomatoes
1/2 tsp. salt
black pepper to taste
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
Combine all ingredients and mix well. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Cucumber Mint Salsa
2 medium slicing cucumbers
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
3 to 4 Tbsp. spearmint leaves
1 tsp. minced hot pepper
1/4 c. minced sweet pepper, green or red
1/4 c. yogurt
1/4 tsp. salt
Peel both cucumbers. Seed if needed. Puree one in a food processor with the lemon juice. Finely chop the second cucumber and scallion, mint and peppers. Stir all into the yogurt and add salt to taste. Good with chips or on cold veggies or fish or as a salad dressing.
Roberta’s Salsa Verde 2011 (the best yet)
2 to 3 lbs. tomatillos
1 large onion, chopped fine
1 large bunch cilantro, chopped
2 to 3 jalapenos or hot peppers, chopped fine
2 sweet red peppers, diced fine
3 to 5 cloves garlic, minced
juice of 3 or 4 small limes
2 tsp. salt
Husk, rinse and then steam the tomatillos. Drain the liquid, reserving some in case you need to adjust the thickness of the salsa later. Blend the softened tomatillos. Add the remaining ingredients to the hot puree. Adjust seasoning. Serve. Can be canned at 5 pounds pressure for 5 minutes. This recipe can also be made with golden tomatoes by making a puree to replace the tomatillos.
Ginger Fruit Salsa
2 large peaches or mangoes (or 2 c. other fruit or berries), diced
2 paste tomatoes, diced
3 scallions, chopped fine
2 Tbsp. cilantro or parsley
2 tsp. fresh ginger root, grated
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
Mix all ingredients. Serve over salmon or pork or with chips.
4 medium tomatoes, chopped to desired size
1 small onion, finely diced
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
a handful of parsley, finely minced
a handful of cilantro, finely minced
1 hot pepper, finely minced
1 sweet pepper, finely diced
10 to 15 black olives, diced (optional)
1/4 tsp. ground cumin or coriander (optional)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. lemon or lime juice
Mix all ingredients together and adjust seasoning. Serve.