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What should you do with tomatoes from your garden?

Making Salsa from Garden Tomatoes

Salsa is the ultimate dipping sauce. It's a mixture of garden-fresh ingredients that illustrates the reason why regional foods are extraordinary. It blends flavors so expertly that the result is a unique and satisfying treat for your taste buds. Even better, when all you have to do is step outside your kitchen door for fresh, ripe ingredients, your salsa is sure to be a winner. In fact, you may be growing many traditional salsa ingredients in your garden right now.

Served in a small bowl with tortilla chips, salsa is a fresh relish that often has a tomato base. Like marinara, salsa is at its best when you make it using meaty, ripe tomatoes that have been peeled and seeded. With salsa, though, you don't have to be careful to remove the excess moisture. This is one recipe in which a little extra liquid is a good thing.

Chop six or seven prepared fresh tomatoes and combine them with a chopped red onion, a couple of jalapeno peppers, chopped scallions, bell pepper and cilantro to taste. Include the juice of a lime and some salt and pepper. Chill thoroughly before serving. This is a basic salsa any senór or senórita will recognize.

If you want to get fancy, there are lots of other ingredients you can add to tomato salsa to give it an exotic flavor or crunchier consistency. You can increase the heat or leave out the hot peppers for a mild but flavorful accompaniment to taco night with the kids. When you're a youngster, veggies always taste better on the end of a chip.

Using a blend of hot peppers can make homemade salsa a fun and interesting experience for the grownups, too. Different peppers pile on the heat at different locations on the tongue, so the result is a blended burn that's unexpected but not necessarily overpowering.

If you want to walk on the wild side, consider adding some of these ingredients to your homemade salsa:

  • serrano peppers
  • paprika peppers
  • tabasco peppers (or sauce)
  • habanero peppers (for the serious heat lover)
  • smoked jalapenos (chipotle chiles)
  • tomatillos (a veggie in the tomato family)
  • olive oil
  • chili powder
  • cumin
  • orange zest
  • lemon pepper
  • red wine vinegar
  • soy sauce (just a dash)

Once tomato season in the garden is over, you can still make salsa using a canned tomato base. To create interest, add mango, diced oranges, jicama and other ingredients for a relish that will complement your meal even though your vegetable patch is buried under a foot of snow. These recipes will get you started: