Salads are standard fare during the spring and summer but the leafy kind can feel bland after a while. Salsa, on the other hand, has zest and zip and is all the tastier when made from freshly picked ingredients from the garden. Consisting of chopped or pureed vegetables and herbs, it can be served as a dip with tortilla chips but is also excellent with codfish cakes. So why not grow a salsa garden in time for Good Friday? You can set aside a plot in your garden or use containers, which have the advantage of being easily moved into the shade when the sun becomes too fierce.
Ingredients vary according to taste but most salsas contain tomatoes, peppers, onions, parsley and garlic. Freshly squeezed lime juice is often added.
DID YOU KNOW?
• The Aztecs served salsa 3,000 years ago.
• A crew member of one of Christopher Columbus’s ships brought chili peppers to Spain and from there they were eventually dispersed throughout Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East.
• Salsa has high levels of Vitamins A and C.
What to Plant:
Tomatoes are usually the heart of a salsa. Plant nurseries in Bermuda offer a good variety. Roma tomatoes are flavourful as are cherry tomatoes which grow well in a pot. Three plants should produce enough fruit to last the summer.
• Plant each seedling in at least two square feet of your garden or in one five-gallon container with good drainage.
• Remove two leaves at the seedling’s base so that you can set each seedling in a hole deep enough to bury much of its stem. A stronger root system will result.
• Water regularly making sure the soil is moist, but not soggy.
• Feed plants in containers with a tomato specific fertiliser every two weeks.
Bermuda onions work well, as do red onions. Scallions and/or chives can be substituted. They add a milder taste while giving colour.
If you like medium to hot salsa, grow cayenne peppers. Jalapeno and tabasco peppers are excellent for a mild to medium heat level. Hot peppers are easy to grow in Bermuda and each plant can produce over a dozen fruits. Grow three to five pepper seedlings, one per pot.
TIP: Hot peppers freeze well and are useful ingredients for curries.
DID YOU KNOW?
• Hot peppers like warm days and nights to produce fruit. Hot air and earth temperatures increase their heat levels.
Use only sweet peppers if you do not like spicy hot food or a mix for a sweet and spicy blend. Red, yellow, and orange peppers take longer to ripen. Peppers at their green stage can be harvested earlier.
• Water regularly.
• Fertilise when planting and again when fruits appear.
• A tablespoon of Epsom salts can be added to the soil when planting. It boosts magnesium.
• Stake if the fruits appear too heavy for the plant to bear their weight.
• Snip fruits with scissors so you don’t break stems.
True salsa calls for cilantro, otherwise known as Chinese parsley or coriander. The leaves have a peppery taste while the seeds, ground, are aromatic and can also be added to the mix. But curled parsley is a good substitute for those who like a milder taste. It is also easier to keep going during the summer. All can be grown in pots.
• Keep in shade during the summer.
• Keep cutting leaves to promote growth.