Fresh Tomato Salsa

Over the past decade, Americans have grown to love salsa, surpassing ketchup as a favorite condiment. While there are many variations, a basic salsa recipe includes tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, cilantro and tomatillos. I make tomato salsa several times each summer from plants grown in my garden. You can too!

The type of tomato used will affect the thickness and quality of the salsa. Pasta tomatoes such as 'Roma,' Viva Italia,' and 'Veeroma' are firmer and produce a thicker sauce than slicing tomatoes. Slicing tomatoes, such as 'Big Boy,' 'Celebrity,' or 'Floramerica' yield a watery, thinner salsa.

Peppers vary greatly in taste and degree of heat. You can vary the hotness of the salsa by the peppers you use. Peppers used in salsa from mildest to hottest are Bell, Jalapeno, Cayenne, Thai and Habenero.

To get the largest garlic bulbs (Allium sativum) plant individual garlic cloves in well-drained soil in October. Plant 2 inches deep and mulch to prevent heaving in the winter. Garlic varieties to consider include 'New York White,' and 'German Extra Hardy.'

Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is easy to grow from seed. Plant seeds or transplants in full sun. Select varieties which are known for foliage rather than seed production, consider less flowering cultivar such as 'Santo.' I use successive plantings to maintain a constant supply of cilantro.

Tomatillos, known as Mexican husk tomatoes, resemble green tomatoes with a husk. Remove the dry outer husk before using; they do not need to be peeled or seeded.

Homemade fresh salsa can be made to suit your taste buds. Rinse all the herbs and vegetables with water prior to peeling and chopping.