Thursday, May 3, 2012

Celebrate With a Salsa Garden!

It’s Cinco de Mayo tomorrow, and while my blended and extended family will be celebrating with a gathering and plenty of delicious, homemade Mexican food, I thought I’d post about plants (and a recipe!) instead of the typical celebratory things.  Not just any plants, but the garden bounty that’s used in salsa!

A salsa garden is perfect for small spaces and for container gardening too.  Tomato, peppers, and cilantro are typical salsa ingredients and all do well in containers and small, sunny spaces.  Making salsa at home isn’t difficult either.  It’s inexpensive and using home grown, chemical free produce adds  the bonuses of extra taste AND helping to keep your body free of toxins.

If gardening in containers, you’ll need a larger container for the tomato plants, but peppers and cilantro can both be grown in smaller containers.   ’m using a 20“ container for tomatoes and chives and, for peppers and herbs, large coffee cans with holes punched into the bottom for drainage. 

A few years ago, I recycled two large, round plastic tubs that had stored toys and used them for planting tomatoes and herbs.  I simply drilled holes in the bottom for drainage and put empty aluminum cans (turned upside down) in the bottom to lessen the weight from the soil and to economize on the amount of soil I needed to buy.

If money is an issue, then growing plants from seed is definitely a frugal move.  It’s late in the season for starting seeds indoors, but you can also do the planting outdoors at the beginning of the growing season. To find out when that is for your area, check here

For healthy tomato plants, it’s important to water regularly, without over watering. Tomatoes don’t like waterlogged roots but, when growing in containers, it’s also important not to let the soil dry out beyond the first inch at the top.  Mulching will help with that, as well as discourage some garden pests.  I use dry grass cuttings or leaves, along with dried coffee grounds, making sure that the mulch doesn’t touch the plant stems.

You can save money on fertilizers as well, and keep your plants chemical free.  Crushed eggshells added to the soil or placed on top of the soil around your plants will give them much needed calcium, while coffee grounds will provide nitrogen.  I use this combination most often for tomato and pepper plants.  Used coffee grounds can also be used as a mulch, or diluted in water as a gentle fertilizer.

If you're not a coffee drinker, or have a larger garden, try stopping by the local Starbucks or other coffee shop and ask if they will let you have used coffee grounds.  Starbucks will let you have the grounds for free and local shops may do the same. 

I love to garden, but finances necessitated a move from a house to an apartment a year ago.  Although my patio is really small, I’ve been determined to have a container garden of some kind.  I’ve gotten a good start this year, planting seeds indoors for tomatoes, chives, three different types of lettuce, parsley, basil and one type of squash.  The last frost date here is in mid-May and we have a short growing season in the high desert of Eastern Oregon, so an early start indoors is a must!

I was hoping to include some photos of my patio, but we’re having a huge thunder, lightning and hail storm today so I haven't put the plants outdoors.  I do have a simple salsa recipe for you though!

The recipe

2 lg. ripe tomatoes, cut in half
4 jalapeños, seeded and minced
1 medium white onion, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
18 cilantro sprigs, minced
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
Preheat a pan on a stove with 1 tbs olive oil.  Add tomato, jalapenos, onion and garlic then roast the mixture well.  Pour the mix into a blender with a very small amount of water and mix on the lowest setting until you have a thick, pulpy (not liquid) salsa.

Add the cilantro and salt to taste, then the lime juice and stir by hand.  You can serve as soon as it’s cooled a bit or store in the refrigerator until needed.  An extra day or two even improves the salsa, giving the flavors time to blend.

Tip:  I don’t like cilantro so I’ll typically leave it out and add chopped chives for taste and color instead.  You can also control the ‘heat’ by leaving out some of the jalapeno – or adding extra.


Shared on Show Off Your Stuff Party at Fireflies and Jellybeans


  1. Thanks for the recipe my friend. I am a bit of a wuss when it comes to 'hot' food and so i am always a little careful with chilli and peppers but this looks great
    hugs June x

    1. June, I'm surrounded by people who love spicy hot foods, but I'm a wuss like you, lol! I usually find a middle ground for heat levels and then just use the salsa sparingly.

  2. Hello
    I'm from Australia too, I noticed your correspondent on the last post. I also believe I know who your swap partner in Oz is :) I have enjoyed your blog so far and look forward to some more even though our seasons are the opposite to yours and your gardening posts will be the opposite its still fun to see what is happening across the world.
    Cheers for now

    1. Hi Pam! You must be in Stephanie's group, lol.
      I'm glad you're enjoying the blog! It won't all be gardening. I'm hoping many of my posts will be timely and relevant no matter where my readers live ;)

  3. Wow! Great idea! I just planted my first tomato plant and am crossing my fingers that it grows!

    1. Yay Debbie! Tomatoes are fairly easy - and the coffee grounds and eggshells really do help them grow ;)
      If you've never tasted a home grown tomato before, you're in for a treat! They taste SO much better than store bought.

  4. Someday I hope to actually grow something we can eat!

    1. Raejean, I hope you get to have that experience too! When you're ready, you can try starting out with an herb (basil and mint are easy!) or a leafy lettuce. Herbs can be grown in small pots in a sunny windowsill too.

  5. While you folks are just starting your spring/summer gardens we sadly have had to pull our tomatoes and capsicums out following the first big frost of the approaching winter ;o(
    I am Louise's mother...LOL

  6. Lol! Now I understand how you know who my swap partner is!! I didn't want to admit to confusion before, lol.
    Our last frost date in my area is May 15th, so I'm putting things out on the patio during the day only. All of my vegetable and herb starts get to be nice and cozy indoors at night...for just a little bit longer.
    Could you (or do you) grow some herbs indoors during cold weather?

  7. We will grow peas and broad beans and we can have broc and family als o parsley and I have green onions in a jar in my kitchen. We are very exposed to the west and south ( remember opposite) so we do get very big frosts.

  8. I really, really miss my Dad's garden. Growing up as a kid in British Columbia, we always had fresh veggies. When my folks moved from our family home to where they grew up, the new house had a well developed (and loved) garden already. So Dad kept on gardening and sent many tempting and delicious photos over the years.

    I have my own garden once and sure miss that. But I have been so reluctant to try an indoor garden, even for herbs because I have more than a few cats!

    I just love your salsa recipe and pinned it on Pinterest. You should make sure you add a Pinterest button to your posts so others will too! It'll expand your readership by leaps and bounds :D

    1. Shannon, I was 17 when I went to live with my dad and had my first experience gardening, preserving, canning - and I loved it!
      I had a garden until a year ago, when I had to move and downsize. My container garden helps me to still feel connected, in a smaller way, with the earth - and will help offset my food bill too, lol.
      I understand about the cats! I just found my cat laying in my planter of lettuce starts yesterday. Until the plants are bigger, I've covered the container with a large glass lid and am hoping it works ;)
      Oh, and I'm technologically challenged, lol, so it took me a bit to figure out how to add a Pinterest button. Thanks so much for the tip!!

  9. I love your salsa recipe yum! Fresh salsa is one of my favorite things to make, it's delicious!

    1. I hope you're having a blast celebrating your SITS day! It's so sweet of you to take the time to stop by :)
      I learned to make the salsa from my friend Margarita, so the ingredients and methods are authentic!


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