Interesting Ingestion: Saucy Antiquity


I’m sure many of you gardeners right about now are picking more tomal atl* than you know what to do with. Well, I know just the thing to help you with your terrible burden of “fat water” overabundance: salsa. Here’s the list:

Ingredients (5 servings):

  • 1/4 cup and 2 tbsp. chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp. chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 tbsp. onion, diced
  • 1-1/2 tsp. minced fresh cilantro
  • 3/4 tsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh jalapeno pepper (including seeds)
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper


  • Bowl
  • Large spoon


  1. Stir.
  2. Oh yeah, and eat.^

^If you’re feeling adventurous, try putting some corn, avocado and black beans in the mix. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

*The tomato and its close relative, the tomatillo, were first domesticated by indigenous groups in the area now known as Andes region of Ecuador, Peru and Colombia. These groups introduced the South American nightshades to the Central American Aztecs, who gave it the name tomal atl, meaning “fat water” in their language, Nahuatl. When they started growing tomatoes and tomatillos, they had had already domesticated the chile. Through the Aztecs, the tomatillo, tomato and chile combined forces to make what the Spaniards later called salsa, or sauce.

The New World food is very, very old indeed. It was a staple condiment for the central Mexican nation thousands of years before Europeans even knew they existed. They mixed these main ingredients with others, such as squash seeds and beans. And it turns out that salsa wasn’t the only salsa they made. They concocted sauces from fruit juice, hot chiles, yellow chiles, mild red chiles, mushrooms, squash, sour herbs and avocados. They made sauces that were spicy, heated and smoked. They were condiment connoisseurs. They ate it with venison, wild turkey, lobster and fish.  It turns out the food that holds the title of “America’s favorite condiment” held it long before America was America.