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Fresh salsa starts with fresh mandarins

Recipe: Seasonal condiment pairs well with chips or seafood

Tree design
Had to play with the mandarins a bit. These went into a lovely
fresh salsa. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)

As much as I love the flavors of Thanksgiving, by the end of the holiday weekend I'm desperate for different ones -- but not Christmas flavors, not yet.

Fortunately, I have plenty of mandarins in that 10-pound bag I bought from one of our foothill growers. Mandarins aren't great for baking but they do play well in salads and other fresh creations.

Salsa, I decided, was about as far as I could get from mashed potatoes, turkey gravy and sage-scented stuffing. It relies on fresh ingredients at any time of year, including plenty of fresh cilantro.

I used the smallest of the mandarins that were in my bag, and 6 of those produced about 1 cup of chopped pieces, but adjust the number depending on the size fruit you have.

Try this salsa with tortilla chips or over some grilled seafood or chicken. Spice it up some more, with hotter peppers or some red-pepper flakes, if that's to your taste, too.

Ingredients on a black cutting board
Pull out those stringy bits from the middle
of the mandarin halves.
Mandarin and lime winter salsa

Makes about 1-1/2 cups


4 to 6 mandarins (Satsumas or clementines),  about 3/4 pound before peeling

1 jalapeño, de-seeded and minced (use 2, or another type of hot pepper, if you like)

1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves and some stems (about 1/3 of a bunch)

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

Zest and juice of 1 lime

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Sprinkle of red-pepper flakes, optional

Salsa and chip
Give the flavors a chance to meld, then dig in!

Peel the mandarins, and separate into halves. Pull out the stringy middle and any other loose bits. Using a serrated knife, slice the halves horizontally across the segments and add them to a bowl. The cut segments will come apart on their own or can be easily pulled apart. You should have about 1 cup of segment pieces.

Stir in the minced jalapeño, the chopped cilantro, chopped onion, lime zest and juice. Add 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Taste and add more salt as needed. Stir in the sprinkle of red-pepper flakes if using.

The salsa can be served immediately, but I think it tastes better if it is chilled for 1 hour. Stir and taste again to adjust flavors before serving.

This salsa also is best the day it is made, but will keep in the refrigerator for another day or so.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Sept. 24:

This week our weather will be just right for fall gardening. What are you waiting for?

* Now is the time to plant for fall. The warm soil will get these veggies off to a fast start.

* Keep harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons and eggplant. Tomatoes may ripen faster off the vine and sitting on the kitchen counter.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Fertilize deciduous fruit trees.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as well as lettuce seedlings.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials. That includes bearded iris; if they haven’t bloomed in three years, it’s time to dig them up and divide their rhizomes.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with “eyes” about an inch below the soil surface.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

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Find our spring recipes here!