Grow Your Own Salsa
Add color to your harvest and flavor to your table with a fiesta of peppers and tomatoes.
George Costanza of the show Seinfeld has no doubt what belongs on every dinner table. "Salsa," he states flatly, "is now the number one condiment in America." Mark Viette agrees. He doesn't live in Manhattan but in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, outside Fishersville. With his parents, André and Claire, he runs a well-known perennials nursery that bears his father's name. Mark is just as much an artist in the kitchen as he is in the garden. That's where salsa comes in.
At home, he tends a backyard vegetable garden designed for one purpose--to supply the heirloom tomatoes and fiery peppers that flavor his legendary salsa. I ask Claire how a guy who has devoted his life to planting, grooming, and hybridizing flowers finds utter fulfillment dicing tomatoes.
"Mark loves to cook. From the time he was little, he was always in the kitchen. Of course," she adds with a laugh, "when he was really young, some of the things he fixed didn't always turn out edible." Obviously, Mark has come a long way. Around Fishersville, his salsa is more than a dish--it's an event.
Variety--The Spice of Salsa
Mark grows more than 40 selections of both tomatoes and peppers, some rare and some common. To find them, he canvasses local nurseries and scours mail-order catalogs. Such a wide assortment furnishes the rainbow of colors, flavors, and degrees of heat on which a good salsa depends.
"Plant 20 selections of something rather than 3," he urges. "By using one or two plants of each, you can extend the harvest and minimize pest problems. Besides, one big plant can provide all the fruit of a particular kind you'll ever need."