JEFF TIEDEMAN: Ripe for the pickin'Home-grown veggies make the best salsa.
Summer is winding down, and so is the gardening season. The harvest has been mostly good, although I’ve been disappointed in my tomato, onion and pepper crops.
The blight hit my tomatoes again this year, and coupled with too many grape and cherry plants (through no fault of mine but too long a story to recount here), production was way down — so much so that I had to buy bushel of the tasty red orbs to make enough juice just to get me through the winter.
As for the other two aforementioned vegetables, I’ve had better crops of both, although my Walla Wallas and sweet Spanish onions were productive enough to get me through most of the winter. The peppers, though, also were a major disappointment.
Generally, that wouldn’t bode well as far as my salsa-making possibilities go, but I do have a solution. Granted, I’ve already made a half-dozen pints of salsa this summer, and there might be enough tomatoes to make a few more. But with our penchant for eating chips and salsa during the off-season and the once-every-week-or-so meals of Mexican food (Therese makes some mean enchiladas), I would like to put up a dozen or so more pints of salsa.
That brings me to Cheryl Wagner, who along with her husband, Roger, and son, Brian, operate Wagner Landscaping and Retail Nursery, located east of East Grand Forks on U.S. Highway, one mile south of Fisher Landing rest area. (A truck with an attached sign marks the spot where you turn off the highway.)
The Wagners sell bedding plants in the spring, and this year, at their daughters’ suggestion (they have five girls), decided to plant a bunch of vegetables down on their farm area for sale later in the summer and early fall.
They are letting people go into the field now to pick any combo of tomatoes, peppers and onions for $1.50 a pound. Watermelon and cantaloupe also are available. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday or by arrangement. Call (218) 773-7000 or (701) 740-8625.
The tomatoes are romas, which “everyone likes for salsa,” Cheryl said. (Slicing tomatoes usually yield a thinner, more watery salsa than paste tomatoes such as romas.) There is a variety of sweet bell peppers, including California Wonders and a carnival mix (green, orange and red), along with hot peppers — super chilies, habaneros and Anaheims. The onions available are Walla Wallas, yellow and white sweet Spanish, Candy and Superstar. Cheryl said they also will have salsa recipes on hand — some cooked, some garden-fresh.
I also like to make the garden-fresh salsa. One of my favorite recipes is from Greg Gefroh, executive chef of dining services at UND. It features fresh tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, red and green onion, garlic, cilantro, lemon and tomato juice and seasoning salt. His co-worker, Mary Urbanski, assistant director of residential dining services at UND, shared the recipe.
When it comes to salsa, nothing beats homemade. Store-bought varieties can’t deliver the taste of summer flavor of salsa made with fresh tomatoes, peppers and onions from your garden or fresh-picked from a local farm (Your finished product will only be as good as the original produce used.)
And you can’t go wrong from a healthwise and cost standpoint, either.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at email@example.com.