plant a salsa garden

Salsa gardens have been popping up in four-feet by four-feet plots and raised beds in the yards of salsa lovers across the country.  Striking in their visual appeal, large plants heavy with tomatoes and brightly colored hot peppers stand tall while cilantro, shallots, garlic and onion nestle into the soil among them, and in one plot you can grow everything you need for homemade salsa.  It’s an easy start, a simple commitment.

planning a salsa garden

tomatoes & tomatillos

Varieties: Tomatoes and tomatillos provide the base for the most well-loved salsas.  With heirloom varietals growing in both appeal and availability, your salsa garden can feature traditional Mexican varieties like the curiously pleated, bright red Zapotec tomato, the maroon-colored Cherokee Purple or the classic, meaty Brandywine tomato.  For those who love the acidic and grassy flavor of tomatillo-based salsas, try growing the Purple de Milpa tomatillo which bears brilliantly colored, large purple fruit.
How to Grow: Start from seed (see sources) indoors or purchase live plants. Tomatoes and tomatillos like full sun and warm temperatures.
When to Start: 70 to 90 days before you plan to harvest.
How Many Plants: Grow no more than two to three plants, evenly spaced, in your salsa garden.

chile peppers

Varieties: While tomatoes and tomatillos provide the base flavor for most salsas, hot peppers provide the essential fire without which a salsa would lack its essence and spirit.  Fresh hot peppers offer a remarkable perfume of flavors that, beyond its initial heat, releases the subtle floral aroma – an aroma that quickly dissipates with storage making hot peppers wonderfully lovely when picked and served fresh.  Enthusiasts of classic and traditional salsas might grow the Early Jalapeno chile pepper whose dwarf size makes it easy to grow and fast to mature while lovers of heirloom peppers might try Aji Colorado chile pepper and those who pride themselves on a ridiculous love of heat would do best with Habanero peppers.
How to Grow: Start from seed (see sources) indoors or purchase live plants. Chile peppers do best in warm climates with full sun.
When to Start: 60 (early maturing) to 110 days before you plan to harvest, depending on variety.
How Many Plants: Grow no more than two or three plants, evenly spaced among tomatoes and tomatillos.

alliums

Varieties: Shallots and onions provide a roundness to salsas that compliment the sweet-acid flavor of tomatoes and tomatillos and the heat of chile peppers. Small, early-maturing varieties like the Mini Purplette onion are particularly well-suited to salsa gardens for they require very little space and are fast-growing.
How to Grow: Start from seed (see sources). Onions do best in full sun.
When to Start: 50 days (early maturing) to 110 days before you plan to harvest, depending on variety.
How Many Plants: Grow about ten to twelve onions, nestled among the tomatoes, tomatillos and chile peppers.

herbs and spice

Varieties: Fresh herbs provide a punch of bright flavor that can truly determine the nature of your salsa whether that’s through the bright, almost soapy flavor of cilantro to the rustic and humble taste of cumin. The Santo variety of cilantro is slow to bolt and specially bread for leaf production.   Cumin can be sown early in the season and will begin to flower at the peak of the summer, with heads ready to clip and seeds ready to harvest in August and September.
How to Grow: Start from seed (see sources).  Onions do best in full sun.
When to Start: 50 days (cilantro) to 120 days (cumin) before you plan to harvest.
How Many Plants: Nestle three to four plants among larger plants of tomatoes, tomatillos and chile peppers.

And just a head’s up: I wrote this post while participating in the Sowing Millions Project by Real Food Media on behalf of Seeds of Change. I received product and exclusive content to facilitate my post (free seeds rock!). My thoughts and opinions are my own and not of those of Real Food Media or Seeds of Change.  You can fan Seeds of Change on Facebook, posting progress photos of your garden on their wall for the Sowing Millions Virtual Garden.  They’re also on twitter (and so am I).

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