What a summer for fresh locally grown produce! The vegetables and fruit are at their best right now at farmer’s markets, roadside stands, the grocery store, and your garden. Vegetables and fruits have so many wonderful colors, textures, and unlimited possibilities when it comes to preparing them.

As I type this column, the weather is great for outdoor cooking and I know many of you are also working hard to preserve vegetables and fruits. If you’re thinking about making salsa, now is the time as many fruits and veggies are in season. Salsa is an easy and excellent way to add nutrients to snacks and meals without adding many calories. A combination of tomatoes, fruit, celery, onions, and peppers can add zest to chips. A mixture of fruit, herbs, onion, and pepper added to meat or fish can add unique flavors to dishes. There are a variety of salsa options for different preferences such as spicy, hot, sweet, herbal, and aromatic.

Late summer and early fall are wonderful times to experiment with different salsa recipes. Salsas can be eaten as is, scrambled in eggs, dished as a garnish for meat, or served as an ice cream topping. It is also great on a baked potato or salad greens.

To make successful salsa, keep these ingredient ideas and preparation tips in mind. Keep cut fruits such as apples, pears, bananas, and peaches from turning brown by coating them with an acidic juice such as lemon, orange, or pineapple juice. You can also use a commercial produce protector and follow the manufacturer’s directions. Cover and refrigerate cut fruit and veggies until ready to serve. Most salsas taste best if refrigerated for about an hour before serving to let the flavors blend together.

Plan to serve salsa safely. Perishable foods like dips, salsas, and cut fruit and vegetables should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours. If you will be serving items such as these for longer than two hours, set out a smaller bowl of salsa or set the salsa bowl on ice. When using a smaller bowl, you can just refill it once empty. Do not add fresh salsa to salsa that has been sitting out. Refrigerate and use up any salsa that has not been served within three to four days of preparation.

When canning salsa, it is important to follow research-based recipes. Canning your own salsa recipe or changing proportions of ingredients in a tested salsa recipe can be unsafe. The types and amounts of ingredients used and preparation method are important considerations. Improperly canned salsas or other tomato-pepper combinations have been the cause of some outbreaks of botulism poisoning. If you don’t have a tested recipe or proper canning equipment, you might try freezing your salsa. Be aware that there may be changes in the texture and flavor after freezing and thawing. Try freezing a small amount the first time. Herbs and spices may taste better if they are added fresh just before serving. If you are new to canning or need a refresher course, visit https://extension.purdue.edu/lkhart/article/35010

Blueberry Bell Pepper Salsa

Karen Meade, Goshen

2 Tomatoes, Chopped

3 c. Fresh Blueberries, Roughly Chopped

2 T. Fresh Cilantro, Chopped

1 Jalapeno, Finely Chopped

1/2 Red Onion, Finely Chopped

1 Red Bell Pepper, Chopped

1 Yellow Bell Pepper, Chopped

1/2 tsp. Salt

1 Lemon, Juiced

1/2 Pineapple, Chopped

Add all ingredients and stir until combined.

Mary Ann Lienhart Cross is extension educator, health and human sciences, Purdue Extension Elkhart County. She can be reached at 574-533-0554 and lienhart@purdue.edu.

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