Having grown up on a farm in Texas, my many, many attempts to grow anything here in Las Vegas by ‘normal’ methods has been frustrating and expensive: poor soil quality means building raised beds and buying all the soil to fill them. It means buying earthworms, Lady Bugs, mulch, manure and compost. It means huge water bills, constant monitoring and learning how to control sunlight exposure. Can you picture a garden with parasols?!? Actually, I wish I’d taken pictures because it was kind of picturesque…
The winter of 2014-2015 really wasn’t; record high temperatures allowed me to bed all my garden plants by the second week in February. For the first time in twenty years it looked as if I was finally going to have a real garden and I was over the moon! I dreamed of luscious red tomatoes topped with fresh mozzarella and fresh basil, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, nestled amidst slices of fresh Italian bread. By the last week in April my garden looked like Eden and the tomato plants were absolutely loaded with big beautiful green gems; I had to tie up vines by the ton! My corn was as high as an elephant’s eye. Squash and watermelon vines twisted up trellises; beans nestled beneath the corn, providing nitrogen I didn’t have to buy. Such bliss! Such joy!
What was it John Lennon said about life being what happens when you’re busy making other plans?
The first week of May Las Vegas hit triple digit temperatures and there was nothing I could do to save my babies. As tender leaves and shoots dried up and died in the blistering heat, I ranted, I raved, I cried and cursed carbon dioxide. Not only did I lose my tomatoes, I lost my corn and squash, too, because we no longer have pollinators like bees and butterflies here. I built bee houses and planted Monarch milkweed gardens but they did not come.
I picked the green tomatoes and pulled everything else. What to do now? Even a southern girl can only eat fried green tomatoes so many times. I remembered my grandparent’s made ‘chow-chow’, a kind of pickle relish, out of their (very few) leftover green tomatoes but I had way too many. That’s when I had the idea to make salsa. We eat a lot of it at my house. And, I consoled myself, I’d save money over buy store bought. That is until I figured that each jar of my homemade salsa, all things considered, cost over $50. I cried and cursed carbon dioxide some more.
Step 1: And Make It Your Way!
This is a basic template which makes 12 cups of mild salsa. I didn’t list chopped jalapeño peppers but feel free to throw them in. In fact, feel free to throw in anything your little frustrated heart desires. Experiment with spices and amounts. Taste. Taste. Taste. Embrace it! Make it your own! You can half the recipe or - as I did - double it.
Step 2: What You Need:
– Lots and lots and LOTS of CO2: This is the key ingredient for weeks of 110+ degrees of springtime heat needed to leave you with all those green tomatoes…
– 10 cups cored, chopped, unripened green tomatoes. No need to peel.
– 6 cups chopped onions – red, white or yellow – or any combination
(Feel free, at this point, to cry over dead garden. Blame these tears on the onions.)
– 2 cups chopped bell peppers – red, yellow or green – or any combination for desired color. (Red peppers will give you a more red-colored salsa.)
– 1 cup chopped cilantro
– 6 to 10 cloves of garlic, minced
– 1 to 1 1/2 cups lime juice – fresh squeezed is great but bottled works just fine. (You can use vinegar but add in small amounts and taste as you go.)
– 1 tbsp salt - (I used sea salt)
– 1 tbsp sugar or honey
– 1 tbsp red chili powder
– 1 tsp cumin powder
– 1 tsp dried oregano
– 5 to 10 drops pepper sauce (I use Tobasco)
Step 3: The Process
Utilizing green thumb frustration, chop ingredients by hand to desired size. (If you get tired, throw the rest in the food processor for a few seconds.)
Combine everything in a large bowl or pot, grab a spoon and some chips and sample. Now is the time to make changes. More salt? More peppers?
What you do next depends on whether you intend to can, freeze, eat fresh or store in your fridge.
If canning or freezing:
Combine all ingredients in large pot. Mix well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. (If you plan to eat it all right away or freeze, you can reduce cooking time to 10 or 15 minutes. This will soften the green tomatoes just enough to be easily edible.)
Remove from heat.
-Ladle into jars if while hot and proceed with water bath or pressure canning. (Canning instructions here: freshpreserving.com)
-If freezing, allow salsa to cool before filling bags or containers
-Fresh salsa can be kept covered in fridge for about two weeks.
Step 4: And Finally...
When life hands you green tomatoes, make salsa!