Peppers, Garlic and Cilantro for SALSA
WHAT IS SALSA?
Essentially a salsa is a fresh and healthy piquant Mexican side dish that can be used in several ways (depending on the recipe and ingredients used). Most salsas are ‘raw’ using fresh ingredients, though some may be cooked and blended into more of a sauce (as with Salsa Verde).
A really popular salsa recipe includes tomatoes, chillies, onions, garlic and cilantro and fresh lime juice (see my recipe at the end of this article)… so this, for the most part, is what we are going to grow, though in this article we concentrate on CHILLI PEPPERS, GARLIC and CILANTRO. You need to look for the twin article which covers growing tomatoes and onions
WHAT YOU NEED:
Containers, any shape will do though I like wide round ones at least 12 inches deep, chosen plant seedlings, soil, water, fertilisers, sunshine and a touch of patience while they all grow for you.
Prepare your pots, make sure they have good drainage holes in the bottom, clean them if they have been used before (vinegar water is good), place them in their sunny spots, use pebbles or crocks to assist with the drainage, use drip trays or saucers to catch extra water and save your floors or deck or wherever.
Mix your friable potting soil (not soil from the garden which will be too heavy) with some good compost. I always add a scant handful of bone meal a third of the way up each container, plus I use finely crushed eggshells, used coffee grounds, Epsom salts (great for roses too!) and fish-based liquid feed. Don’t worry if you do not have all of these, plant up your pots anyway.
Remember to water and feed regularly and, while not vital, quarter-turn your pots weekly to get balanced growth – all sides of your plants get their share of the morning and the afternoon sun that way.
Grow CHILLIE PEPPERS
How hot is your palate? Habanero hot or mild and spicy hot? You choose your chillie peppers accordingly and row what you will cook with. I buy seedlings just because it is my style of gardening, but if you want to grow these from seeds, then follow the instructions on your seed packets which will tell you what to do for your zone Anyway, transplants you seedlings into our pots a good two weeks after the last frost – or it is unlikely that you will get good results if any to harvest.
Remember too that when transplanting any seedling, be gentle and take care not to disturb the roots. Plan your chillie peppers in loose well-draining composty soil, and while weeds don’t often trouble that much in containers, keep yours weed free – you don’t want to share your food with them, you want the food you give to your flowering plants to go straight and all to your chillie peppers. Water well and keep the soil moist all the time for a good crop yield and if you need to, use a trellis and stake and support your drooping plants if they need it.
When it comes to harvesting your chillie peppers, I like to leave them on the vine to ripen completely for flavour and tastiest results. This is also good if you want to dry them. When getting you peppers from the vine, don’t tear them, cut them off with a pair of scissors or a sharp knife and wear gloves whenever you handle them – capsaicin is not funny on your skin or a rubbed eye for example. You won’t need to wear gloves if you have chosen to grow sweet bell peppers.
Growing Cilantro is easy and enjoyable and oh so healthy too – it’s one of the herbs used way back by the ancient Greeks and is used all over the world today – as well as in your kitchen! Use a high quality well-draining composty soil and depending on the space that you have, you can grow single pots just as easily as 20 inch containers. As with most herbs cilantro needs good sunshine, liquid fertilisers and regular watering. P S If you have any tealeaves left over, add them to your cilantro soil, cilantro is fond of a touch of acid.
When it comes to harvesting, use a sharp scissors and cut your bunch about an inch plus above the soil and you will find it will regrow readily; in fact, even if you happen not to be cooking with cilantro, and you see your plant is ready, cut off the leaves anyway (and give them away if you need to) because by cutting down the leaves regularly you will promote growth.
Another easy garden task – growing garlic is simple and there seem to be many ways of growing it. This is how I do it. I buy organic garlic bulbs from the garden centre (I don’t get good results from garlic bought at the supermarkets – maybe because they are radurized?) and separate the coves gently from the bulbs. Then you can soak them for a couple of hours in a mix of 1 gallon water, 1 tsp Epsom salts and 1 tsp liquid kelp fertiliser. I was taught that this helps establishing healthy bulbs and scares away fungus and all.
Into your prepared container (friable loose well-draining soil with added compost), plant your garlic cloves flat side down, pointy side up around 1 to 2 inches deep and not less than 6 inches apart. Cover them with mulch and water regularly to keep the soil moist not wet.
When the chive-like leaves are around 8 inches high, you can harvest some to use in the kitchen or you can just leave them be to grow more. Harvest time is around 4 to 6 months later when you see that at least five of the leaves have turned brown. Use a small hand spade to dig them up, let them dry for a couple of days, trim off the leaves and roots and there you go … the magic begins.
After you have read this article as well as its twin, where we cover growing Tomatoes and Onions – go to the food recipe section on the Container Gardening site to check out a really delicious way to make Salsa Fresca.
What do you want your container garden to do?
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