Salsa is a tasty sauce that works well with tortilla chips, on tacos and burritos, and in other things as well. You can even put it on burgers if you so desire. Salsa has Spanish and Mexican origins, but is made from standard vegetables that you can grow in the United States. Even though there are many different types of salsas, the most common and universally loved is tomato based. If you wanted to create your own salsa almost literally from scratch, start by planting these crops in your garden:
No matter the type of tomatoes that you plant for your salsa (this depends on your climate) there are several things that are universal. These include a cage, stake, or trellis to keep the plant upright, a sunny spot in your garden (tomatoes require between 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day) and plenty of space for the plant to spread out in.
Despite the name, tomatillos aren’t tomatoes – but they are related. Tomatillos are green fruits (although if you let them mature on the vine, they’ll turn purple when completely ripe) that have a tart flavor and grow in a green, leaflike husk that needs to be removed before it is prepared to eat. They grow in a manner similar to tomatoes, and need full sun, soil that drains well, and need to be planted deeply, as they can become top-heavy once the fruit begins to grow.
There are several different types of bell peppers that you can plant, from green to orange, red, and yellow. The latter varieties tend to be sweeter than standard green peppers, so the one you choose depends on how sweet you want your salsa to be. No matter the varietal, bell peppers like full sun and warm soil. If you live in a cooler climate, make sure that it well past the first frost before you plant them outdoors.
Onions are very easy to grow and like cooler weather. If you’ve been looking for something to grow after your standard harvest, look no further. As long as the plants have direct sunlight, well-draining soil, and temperatures above -20 degrees farenheit, you are good to go!
Jalapeno peppers tend to be on the milder side, so if you want a salsa with more heat, choose a different type, such as the Serrano pepper, or, if you’re super brave, the Scotch Bonnet. Jalapenos can be used in many different recipes besides salsa, making them a good addition to your garden. However, this is a hot weather plant, so your growing season may be cut short if you live in a cooler area.
Cilantro can be grown in a container – preferably in your herb container garden. This herb is doubly useful, as it’s seeds are coriander – a spice that can be used in rye bread, homebrewed beer, sausages, and when pickling vegetables. The leaves of this plant (sometimes called coriander as well) are great in salsa and guacamole. This plant likes a lot of sunlight and self-seed if you allow it to, keeping your cilantro/coriander growing consistently as long as the weather allows it to.
Don’t forget to add the ground cumin, salt, pepper, and lime juice! Let’s go make some salsa!
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Pic by Gloria Cabada-Leman