If you’re already an avid gardener and want to dedicate your efforts to something a little less common, why not treat your family to something spicy?
When fresh vegetables are in abundance out back, there’s nothing more satisfying than picking and eating the literal fruits of your labor. If you’ve got a little planting experience under your belt already and want to change things up, it’s easy to bring big, bold flavor into the kitchen at a moment’s notice.
Plant a few easy-to-grow vegetables — perfect for a gourmet salsa (like the recipe at the end of this article) and lots of other dishes — and watch your meals come to life.
What to Plant
Considered “warm-weather crops,” these vegetables can be planted as early as April and will continue to thrive through early autumn. To ensure a successful harvest, planting in summer is ideal — when the sun is high in the sky and your yard’s soil is consistently warm.
Dig a hole deep enough to cover the plant up to its first set of leaves. Place in the hole and fill with soil. Water immediately after planting and continue to every other day in mild climates — or every day if you’re having a particularly hot summer. Fertilize weekly and pick your tomatoes once they are bright red. In about 72 days, you should have fresh tomatoes — and the base of your salsa!
Tip: For tall plants that bear heavy fruit (like tomatoes), encase the plant in a gardening cage to prevent it from toppling over.
Green and Jalapeño Peppers
Dig a hole that is equal in depth to the pepper plant’s container. Transfer the plant into the hole and fill with soil. Fertilize the plant weekly and water every few days for about 10 weeks total. Pick your peppers when they have reached the size and color you desire.
Tip: Green peppers will gradually turn red (and sweet!) the longer they sit on the vine. Try picking them off the vine at various times to find the perfect flavor.
This herb grows annually, meaning it should be replanted each year. Place the plant in warm, fertile soil and water generously every other day. Fertilize on a monthly basis and clip the fresh leaves often.
Tip: The leaves of this plant are cilantro, delicious for garnishing Mexican-inspired dishes and salads, but the seeds are coriander, a popular cooking spice with a unique citrus flavor.
Your Homemade Salsa
Because you’ve grown most of the ingredients yourself, reap the awards with the freshest salsa you’ve ever had:
8 medium Roma tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 medium white onion, peeled and chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
2 jalapeño peppers, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
Tip: If you plant your crops early enough when the soil is still cool, you can harvest gorgeous garlic and onion bulbs. But if you wait until summer, you’re better off purchasing these items at the store.
- Combine the vegetables and garlic in a large saucepan over medium heat.
- Pour vinegar over mixture and add remaining ingredients. Reduce to low heat and let simmer uncovered for 25 minutes.
- Let cool. Serve in a small decorative bowl with tortilla chips.