Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by jack. jack Wonders, “how do you make salsa with a jalapenio” Thanks for WONDERing with us, jack!

Mmmm. You've just taken a seat at your favorite Mexican restaurant, and your nostrils are filled with a multitude of delightful scents. Your taste buds begin to tingle as you anticipate the arrival of a basket of warm tortilla chips.

Your waiter arrives with those warm, salty chips of pressed flour and corn. There's only one thing that could make them better, and he sits small bowls of that substance next to the chips. You dig in, dipping a chip into the spicy sauce. As you bite into the chip, a flavor sensation fills your mouth. What is this dip that's so delicious? It's salsa, of course!

Salsa is the Spanish word for "sauce," but it's most often used to describe the dips typical of Mexican cuisine. The Spanish word itself probably derives from the Latin sal, which means "salt."

Also known by names such as salsa picante ("hot" or "spicy sauce") or pico de gallo ("rooster's beak"), salsa can range in consistency from chunky to watery and in flavor from very mild to extremely hot. Most salsas feature tomatoes as their primary ingredient, with a wide variety of other ingredients mixed in, including: onions, chiles, peppers, garlic, cilantro, and lime juice.

Salsa traces its roots back, not to the Spanish, but to the Aztecs of central Mexico during the 14th and 15th centuries. The Aztecs began to cultivate both chiles and tomatoes. It was only a matter of time before they began combining them, along with other ingredients, such as squash seeds and beans, into a flavorful sauce.

Most Mexican salsas were originally made using a traditional mortar and pestle. Today, modern food processors and blenders are usually used to chop and mix the ingredients for salsa, although some chefs still prefer to make salsa by hand-slicing the ingredients.

In addition to traditional tomato-based salsas, many other regional varieties of salsa have developed over the years. For example, salsa verde ("green sauce") is made with cooked tomatillos. Corn salsa is a chunky sauce made with extra vegetables, including sweet corn. There are even salsas made with sweet fruits, such as peach, mango, and pineapple.

More than just a Mexican delicacy, salsa has become a popular condiment in cultures all around the world. Grocery store shelves now carry a wide variety of jarred salsas, and many people eat these salsas with tortilla chips as a popular snack. In fact, salsa passed ketchup in sales in the United States in the early 1990s!

Wonder What's Next?

Tomorrow in Wonderopolis, we study an important historical event for Central America.