florida gardening Salsa tomatoes vegetables

Salsa Recipe

I have been a “cook” all my life. I come from a long line of Cooks. Dad was a Cook as was his father. But, there is only one thing I make in the kitchen that turns out well: Salsa.

I won’t take any credit for some secret recipe. Fresh, home-grown ingredients make the best tasting batch. Tomatoes picked at their peak of ripeness are full of juices, acids and sugars. Onions pulled in their prime are sweet. And garlic (the easiest ingredient to grow) is pungent, full flavored and not bitter. The greatest influence on the flavor are the peppers.

Every year I grow numerous different tomatoes and peppers. I love the variety of colors, shapes, flavors, and heat. Jalapenos are good, but for fuller flavor and twice the heat I like Serranos. I pick these little bullets when they are firm and green. In that phase they add some crunch to the mix and give a slow, sneaky bite back.

Plain old bell peppers are tasty but I prefer pimientos. (Yes, that slimy red thing stuffed in an olive is a sweet pepper.) Pimiento fruits are slightly smaller than bell peppers but the walls are thicker and sweeter.

Purists suggest you dice all ingredients by hand but a quick whirl in a food processor saves time and keeps your hands from the heat. Chop the tomatoes first, then the other ingredients second. Fold them together in a mixing bowl.

  • 4 medium tomatoes
  • 2-3 serrano or jalapeño chiles, stems and seeds removed
  • 1 large Florida Sweet onion
  • 1 pimiento or bell pepper, cored, seeds removed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • Juice of one lime or lemon
  • Salt to taste

I have fun with multicolored vegetables and make a “rainbow salsa” using yellow tomatoes as a base, red pimientos, Peruvian Purple Peppers, and red onions. It’s a thing of beauty. Then there are some not-so-beautiful tomatoes. One of the best flavored heirlooms I have ever eaten is Cherokee Purple. When sliced, the walls are deep red and the jelly is smoky green. When blended into a salsa it looks like the dog’s breakfast. Close your eyes and enjoy.

Warm regards, Bob Cook.

bad landscape

Oak Ignorance

The line of live oaks on the left are planted along a parking lot under power lines in Cape Coral, Florida. Why?
The photo on the right is the same tree, in its mature size. This monster is in Jacksonville, Fl and is estimated to be over 200 years old.
Look it up in any plant book: the Live Oak will grow about 50′ high and 60′ wide.
Pruners can’t make up for ignorance. Why risk the lives of arborists every year by forcing them to prune these trees? May I suggest the one-cut pruning method at the ground level?

bad landscape

Make it Fit!

Another example of short-sighted landscaping. Did the designer or landscaper know the growth habit and mature size of these plants?
I suspect they went to the nursery and bought a bunch of colorful plants and determined to force them all into the same size and shape with gas shears every week.
Each one of these shrubs could separately, comfortably fill this 8′ wide bed. The ‘Helen Johnson’ bougainvillea would be a blooming spectacle by itself in the middle of the bed, if unpruned.
The overused ‘Gold Finger’ schefflera could also make a handsome low hedge if allowed to spread laterally.
When will they realize the silver buttonwood is a small tree, growing 12′ to 15′ tall and wide?
Put away the pruners and get out the shovel.
bad landscape (2)

bad landscape

How Many is Too Many?

This is a freshly planted bed of Green Island Ficus. Did the designer know the mature size of this plant? Each one will grow at least four feet wide. Why did they plant them one inch from the edge of the curb?
If the landscaper thought about the plant’s eventual size they could have planted six or seven in this bed and had a better looking, longer lasting, lower maintenance bed.
P.S. This is at a nationwide fast food chain that must have hired a professional. And the hundreds of people that eat there each day will consider copying this poor planting technique. ficus overplanted

bad landscape

Crooked Oaks

These Live Oaks have been planted for over 10 years (at a car wash I frequent). Every one is crooked. The reason is they were poorly grown in the nursery. Note the above ground circling roots. These woody roots grew in circles in the pot and never escaped that spiraling shape. Instead of having normal, spreading anchor roots this system is as firm as a spring.