Time to plant salsa ingredients

Sadie Jo Smokey The Arizona Republic Feb. 4, 2006 12:00 AM

If you want to make fresh salsa this summer, you'll want to start now. This month is the time to plant basic ingredients to grow your own chunky, juicy tomatoes, spicy hot chile peppers, crunchy onions and tomatillos.

Unfortunately, in the Valley, cilantro and garlic are cool-season herbs, so when you need them in June, you'll need to buy them from a grocery store.

Lee Ann Aronson, a master gardener from Chandler who teaches classes on salsa gardening, suggests setting out tomato transplants in mid-February, giving them plenty of time to grow before it gets too hot.

Tomato transplants are available at many nurseries. Simply follow the directions on the label and plant away.

"Timing can be everything," she said.

Most tomatoes and peppers will not set fruit when temperatures rise above 90 degrees. Plant tomatoes and peppers too late and you'll have lots of flowers and leaves, but no fruit.

Three tips for your salsa garden:

Plant peppers, from the mild and sweet bell pepper to the mouth-scorching habanero, for a healthful kick.

Like tomatoes, the fruit can burn, so provide afternoon shade or cover with 50 percent shade cloth.

Plant the golf-ball-size tomatillos, which are tart and crunchy. The papery-husked fruit likes full sun and well-drained soil.

Plant I'itoi, a green onion/shallot adapted to our desert heat. Grand Canyon Sweet is just that, sweet. Grow from seed or plant from sets.


Roasted Tomato Salsa

From Lee Ann Aronson Feb. 4, 2006 12:00 AM

1 pound plum (roma) tomatoes 1 medium red bell pepper 1 jalapeo pepper 2 medium garlic cloves, unpeeled 2 medium shallots, chopped 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped 1 cup vegetable juice (such as V-8) 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice 1/2 teaspoon ground oregano 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin Salt

Heat broiler rack 8 inches from flame or coil. Place tomatoes, bell pepper, jalapeo and garlic on broiler pan. Broil until evenly blackened, turning often, taking care not to burn, and removing each as it gets done.

Peel bell pepper, jalapeo and garlic. Seed and trim ribs from bell pepper and jalapeo. Peel some black away from tomatoes. Add broiled tomatoes, bell and jalapeo peppers and garlic, shallots and chipotle pepper to food processor. Coarsely chop by pulsing briefly. Place tomatoes and vegetables in large bowl. Swish out processor container with vegetable juice; add juice to bowl. Add lime juice, oregano and cumin to mixture. Blend well. Cover. Chill at least 4 hours. Season with salt to taste.

Makes 3 cups, or 12 servings.

Approximate values per serving ( 1/4 cup): 19 calories, less than 1 g fat, 0 cholesterol, 1 g protein, 4 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 78 mg sodium, 8 percent calories from fat.

Reach the reporter at sadiejo.smokey@arizonarepublic .com or (602) 444-8148.

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