Grow an Organic Salsa Garden

Salsa is a food that many people find hard to swallow. It's often too spicy, goopy and lacking in fresh garden flavor (or sometimes any flavor except oniony, mouth-numbing heat).

I combine these vegetable varieties to make a mild, flavorful salsa:

  • Tomatoes--Fresh Salsa

  • Onions--Candy

  • Cilantro--Delfino

  • Jalapenos--Fooled You

  • Hot Pepper--Czech Black

Fresh salsa and canned salsa are as different as night and day. Many would say that the former is a spoonful (or chipful) of heaven and the latter is inedible. However, good organic salsa ingredients such as cilantro, specialty peppers and sweet onions are often hard to find at your local supermarket or farmer's market. Instead of searching high and low for them, have some fun growing an organic salsa garden.

Make your salsa unique and just the way you like it by growing special vegetable varieties. The "hot heads" out there can grow flavorful, yet unbearably hot peppers such as Cherry Bomb or Hot Paper Lantern (a giant, extra-colorful habanero). Those who prefer very mild peppers can try out delicious, mild jalapeno varieties such as Delicias (which has a touch of heat) or Fooled You (my favorite, which has absolutely none).

Tomatoes are the heart of most salsa. Meaty, flavorful, nearly juiceless tomatoes that keep their shape and firm texture when chopped really enhance a salsa. The Burpee seed company has developed a tomato called Fresh Salsa that, according to them is "all meat"- ideal for tasty salsas, bruschettas and "light" Italian sauces.

This year, I grew Fresh Salsa tomatoes and found that they are indeed meaty and easy (and not messy--even in large quantities) to chop. They hold their shape well, which leads to beautiful salsas that don't dribble a liquid mess all over when you dip your chips. They are not the most flavorful tomatoes, but I mean that in the nicest possible way. These tomatoes taste cool, crisp and sweet, which, in my mind, are the most endearing characteristics of Iceberg lettuce. In the garden, they are of medium vigor and seem somewhat susceptible to early blight, a disease that can be minimized through the use of drip irrigation and mulch. These tomatoes are well worth growing if you want good-looking salsa.

To make salsa, mix and match different types of herbs including cilantro and oregano with onions, tomatoes and peppers and you'll have a treat with which to top a chip or fill a burrito. Salsa can be frozen or canned in order to extend its shelf life. So if you grow an organic salsa garden this summer, you can still be enjoying homemade salsa well into winter.

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