The Tipping List
Salsa in the City
Plant an organic salsa garden
By: Samantha Gendler
Constant noise. Fishy smells. Endless pollution. It’s enough to make a nature-lovin’ girl queasy. But just because you’re stuck in the city doesn’t mean you can’t roll up your sleeves, plant a garden and enjoy the fruits – or veggies – of your labor. A salsa garden is an easy introduction to homegrown eats. With a couple of seeds, some sun and a bit of love, you’ll be on your way to a fiesta in no time.
- seeds (herbs, tomatoes, peppers, onion, garlic); JohnnySeeds.com has a great selection for less than $5 a pack
- soil (I recommend Sunshine Mix #2 because it’s organic)
- pot or window box (plastic retains water best)
- fertilizer (Espoma organic or Myke vegetable food work great and are chemical-free)
- water, sunshine, and love
Step 1: Seed needs
Because you are working with limited space, choose paste tomato seeds such as “Roma” or “Viva Italia.” Though smaller than standard tomatoes, pastes are meaty, rich in flavor and low in moisture – ideal for making salsa. Choose peppers according to how much fire you can handle. Golden Summer and bell pepper varieties will keep it mild, while jalapeño, cayenne and habanero will turn up the heat. Use white sweet Spanish or Utah yellow onions to add a sweet touch, and don’t forget to plant plenty of garlic. Your favorite herbs will help kick it up a notch. Choose from sweet basil, oregano, marjoram, parsley and Cilantro, which help give salsa its strong, spicy flavor.
Step 2: Sow what now?
Fill your pot or window box with a mixture of organic soil and fertilizer (proportions are on the package) to within one inch of the top. Make sure your container has drain holes so you won’t drown your roots. Bury the seeds in the soil no more than a quarter inch deep, and follow the directions on the back of the seed pack for proper spacing. If possible, it’s a good idea to keep sun lovers like tomatoes and peppers in the brightest areas. The rest of the plants will thrive in the shade.
Step 3: Water, water, anywhere
If you live in a rainy city like Seattle, Mother Nature may do the job for you. Otherwise, stick your finger an inch down in the soil every three or four days. If it doesn’t feel damp, water your plants until the leaves and soil are completely wet. Don’t drown them though; balance is key.
Step 4: Let it grow
This is the hardest part. Gardening can seem like a sluggish process when you’ve got a whole city movin’ and groovin’ right outside your doorstep. About two weeks will go by before you should start to see sprouts. If not, feel free to add a pinch more fertilizer; it is chemical-free, after all. Patience – your delicious organic produce will be worth the wait.
Step 5: Harvest time
In the beginning, your plants may be ready to harvest at varying times. Pick your tomatoes when they are fully colored yet still firm. And be careful, just like your delicate skin, a tomato can burn. Pluck peppers more frequently, as this will promote quick reproduction. Twist onions and garlic from their stems when 80 percent of their tops have fallen or died. Gather herbs constantly, and preferably in the morning, when they are most lively (even if you are not).
Step 6: Get saucy
Chop chop! And taste, and mix, and dice, and crush, and mince and taste. There’s no science to it – just make it the way that tastes best to you. Love garlic? Heap it in! Not so keen on onions? Just use a few. After a few runs, you’ll have your proportions down. Add a squeeze of lime juice, a splash of balsamic vinegar and a few shakes of salt and pepper. Scoop salsa into a serving bowl, cover and place in the fridge to allow the flavors to mingle.
City girls like you always have unannounced friends dropping in for a chat, or, better yet, some gossip. Imagine the surprise on their freeloading faces next time they pop by when you, instead of scrambling for stale crackers and leftover cheese, casually say, “Let me step outside to my organic garden- I’ll have something fabulous whipped up in no time!” Add margaritas, organic tortilla chips, and a little mariachi if the mood is right. Traffic, garbage trucks, and smog will be distant memories when you smell the array of mouthwatering aromas wafting through your apartment. How fabulous is that?