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Gardening for Your Taste Buds


In a few weeks, we can start planting tomatoes and peppers as well as sowing seeds of squash, eggplant, beans and other warm-season vegetables. When you’re planning what to grow this summer, think about what you enjoy eating. There are plenty of cooking themes that can make it fun: a salad garden, an herbal tea garden, a pumpkin and squash garden, a Thai garden with lemon grass, Thai basil, hot peppers, and more.

This year, I’m growing a salsa garden with a variety of peppers — some hot, some sweet, along with onions, tomatoes, tomatillos and cilantro. It’s inexpensive, fun and I can change the flavor by adding some chopped mango or pineapple. Here’s a favorite salsa recipe courtesy of my brother Greg. You can grow several of the ingredients:

Pineapple Mango Salsa

1 large golden pineapple, flesh diced to 1⁄4-inch pieces
4 mangoes, flesh diced to 1⁄4-inch pieces
2 plum tomatoes diced to 1⁄4-inch pieces
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1 shallot, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, deseeded and minced
1 serrano pepper (or habanero, if you like it hot), deseeded and minced
1⁄2 cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon agave syrup or honey
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 shots tequila (optional)

Macerate all ingredients together in the tequila and refrigerate at least four hours. Drain (or drink) the liquid and add the juice of one lemon and one lime. Let salsa come to room temp and serve with tortilla chips.

Now, how about some garden-grown pizza ingredients?

Join Chicagoland Gardening writer Nina Koziol in the Grow a Pizza Garden class at The Morton Arboretum on Tuesday, May 21, from 6:30-8:30. Learn how to make your own delicious homemade pizzas with fresh vegetables and herbs from your garden. Just in time to get your tomatoes in the ground, this class will cover how to grow tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, onions, oregano, basil, cilantro, parsley and other veggies and herbs along with recipes for a variety of pizzas that can be cooked in the oven or on the grill. Call 630-719-2468 to register. ($22 for Arboretum members; $30 for non-members)

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questions

What does it take to make a climbing hydrangea flower? Ours was planted 3 years ago and is growing energetically. It’s in a protected nook near the patio and gets very little direct sunlight, but doesn’t act sun starved. We gave it a shot of slow release fertilizer on planting, and once since. Somewhat inadvertently it gets plenty of water, since the hose spigot is nearby and leaks, but drainage does not seem to be the problem. It now fully occupies an 8-foot trellis but shows no interest in flowering. Is it youth, lack of sun, too much or too little fertilizer, bugs, lack of pruning or what? When do these plants bloom and what conditions do they like?

I applied commercial compost and hardwood mulch to an area where I am establishing a small garden. I did a few soil tests on the area and the results indicated the nitrogen was depleted. I intend to spread a bag of dried blood to rectify this problem When is the best time to apply the dried blood?

I’m moving to a townhouse with limited direct sunlight. I would like to put a Japanese maple in a north-facing garden but don’t know if it will do well. What are the best kinds? Also, when is the best time to plant a small tree?

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