Hello. My name's Nathan, and I love Trader Joe's. My wife Sonia does too. She's a great shopper, has excellent taste and knows good value when she comes across it. As many of you know, Trader Joe's is unsurpassed in the world of good-value grocery stores, so we spend a lot of our time and money there. Although the store fairly consistently delivers great taste with its own unique line of food products, there are definitely some big-hits, and unfortunately, there are some misses...

After doing a couple of internet searches for reviews of TJ's food items, Sonia discerned an apparent dearth of good, quality reviews for the store's offerings. So, at her suggestion, we decided to embark on a journey of systematically reviewing every Trader Joe's product, resulting in the blog you are about to read...

A couple of months into our Trader Joe's rating adventure, an old college friend, Russ, who unbeknownst to me had been following our TJ's blog, decided that I had been slacking in my blogging duties (which, of course, I was) so he decided to contribute his own original TJ's reviews to the blog, thus enhancing it, making it more complete and adding to it a flavor of his own. He and his wife Sandy are also avid TJ's fans and, as you will soon discover, he is an excellent writer and is nearly as clever, witty and humble as I am.

Seriously though, Russ: You go, boy!

So here it is: "What's Good at Trader Joe's?"

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Trader Joe's Fall Harvest Salsa

Hrmmm. Just reading the front label of the brand-spankin' new Trader Joe's Harvest Salsa. Pumpkins. Apples. Butternut Squash. In a "salsa." Riiiight.

Sandy, an excellent photographer who doubles as a savvy shopper, snapped this up just this morning on her weekly TJ's run. I had heard NOTHING about this salsa until she sent me the picture at work of the jar front with our new little copyright in the corner. Nice pic, babe! But all I could see was the jar front, and since I hadn't seen any buzz or any news about it anywhere, here's the word that came to mind: Baby food.

Apples and squash are pretty traditional Gerbery glop, after all. Sure, it might be a little fancier - look, it's an "autumnal mélange" after all - but that's more or less what I expected. More savory, no spicy, kinda meh. Doesn't help that I'm not a huge pumpkin guy anyways. I think before twisting the lid off for the maiden tasting voyage I cracked some some joke about it was going to smell like a vaguely Mexican Yankee Candle.

Yet once again...I was wrong.

Don't let it fool you: Even though pumpkin is the primary ingredient, this is a salsa, first and foremost. Look at the rest of the ingredients: Tomatoes. Tomatillos. Jalapeños. Peppers. With the exception of the lime, I could probably grow everything in my back garden...but I'd never think of mashing them all up together into some Frankensalsa.

In a way, the salsa base is a lot like other Trader Joe's salsa - Cowboy Caviar (minus beans and corn) comes to mind, for instance. It's got that same chunky-spicy-sweet tilt to it - a good enough kick, but not enough to easily offend most palates. For this harvest blend, I'd say that the pumpkin and butternut squash add more body and girth than flavor. To my taste, they do add an earthy dimension, but it seems somewhat offset by a little bit of the spiciness being muted. As for the apples - they add a little crispy sweet angle, though it doesn't stand out. I can't quite figure out what type of apple it is, but it's definitely a tamer variety. There's a little touch of honey to amp up the sugar a little bit more, but in all, it's a very smooth, even flavor.

Honestly, both Sandy and I are pretty impressed by this stuff, and how well it incorporated so many different elements. I originally had planned on taking only a few small bites on tortilla chips as an after-main-course tidbit at dinner, which within a couple minutes turned into one of those "We need to put this away now" type moments we are too prone to. It's not enough to have me divorce my still-favorite salsa, and I'm not sold on how well it'd go over at breakfast on some eggs, but for almost anything else you'd put salsa on, go for it. Sandy mentioned a couple times she thinks it'd pair especially well with some grilled chicken, which I'd second. For a little seasonal variety, this is better than what we had bargained for, and well worth the $2.99 price tag.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Fall Harvest Salsa: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons


  1. Frankensalsa. well-played. :) And it's important to note this salsa has pumpkin, not 'pumpkin spice'!

  2. I found your blog this past week and I've already gone through every single post! I bought the roasted butternut squash, quinoa, wheatberry salad based on your rec and I was deffo not disappointed!

  3. This sounds very similar to the Sprouts Pumpkin salsa (no squash there) which is utterly delicious and has a jalapeno kick. It's really good baked! I'll definitely try this!

  4. I've seen this salsa at my Trader Joe's recently and was wondering how it was. Now I know! Gonna have to buy myself a jar.

  5. This was a fabulous simmer sauce for chicken breasts. I used boneless skinless breasts. I put them in a baking dish, dumped the salsa on top, and let it bake covered with foil until they were cooked through. I served it over rice. Total winner.