Grow Your Own Salsa Garden

The St. Louis Cardinals are heating up. And if you believe the hype, Matt Carpenter’s secret salsa may have something to do with the team’s summer resurgence.

This is not a sports blog. But, the excitement surrounding the salsa gives us an opportunity to talk about some our favorite things—plants and how to grow them.

We know Carpenter is using ingredients grown in his home garden, planted with help from teammate Adam Wainwright. But the exact recipe remains a mystery for good reason. Could you imagine this magic elixir in the hands of a division rival?

Ben Godar at Viva el Birdos has taken a crack at unraveling the recipe using clues from social media. His salsa sleuthing reveals both an ingredient list and cooking technique. Using this list, we’ll help you grown your own salsa garden.

Read more: A Garden Good Enough to Eat

Read more: Team Spirit Garden: Cardinals


Food 082 Tomato Lycopersecum esculentum 'Champion' INCR
Lycopersecum esculentum ‘Champion’ tomatoes growing in the Kemper Center for Home Gardening. Photo by Tom Incrocci.

The first ingredient in most salsa is the tomato. Grow from seed or buy as small plants from a local garden center. Plant outside after the danger of frost has passed, typically around May 15. Your salsa preference should guide the type of tomatoes you decide to grow — slicing tomatoes like ‘Better Boy’ or ‘Celebrity’ will give you a juicier salsa, while paste tomatoes like ‘Roma’ are great for thicker salsas.

Growing Tomatoes

Tomato Problems


Next, you’ll need peppers. Whether you’re going with mild or spicy, the peppers in your salsa are all varieties of the same species, Capsicum annuum. Based on what we know about Carpenter’s secret salsa, you’ll want to plant both a hot pepper, like jalapeno, and a more mild pepper like ‘poblano’. But also consider picking peppers based on your personal tastes. Much like your tomatoes, the peppers can be planted outside around mid-May, and should start to produce fruit in mid- to late-summer.

Growing Peppers

Garlic and Onions

Two members of the genera Allium, garlic and onion are both fairly easy to grow in your home garden. Plant garlic in the fall and cover with mulch for the winter. This promotes larger bulbs at harvest time. Garlic should be ready to dig up by late June or early July. The perennial top onion is a great option for small gardens. Plant in spring and harvest in late summer or early fall. Both onions and garlic need to be cured (dried) before they’re ready to add to your salsa.

Growing Onions

Growing Garlic



Cilantro is an essential herb for flavoring your salsa. It can be planted directly in your garden, or in a container. Plant in mid to late March as the soil warms up. Cilantro will bolt in hot weather so place it in a garden location that receive morning or late afternoon sun, but is shaded during the hottest portion of the day.  Snipping flower stems will help you harvest more leaves, and you’ll want to plant new seeds every two weeks to ensure a continuous crop through the summer. Allow the plants to flower, and you can harvest the seed, coriander, for use in other recipes.

Growing Cilantro

With these basic plant-based ingredients you can grow a garden full of salsa staples. While you can grow other ingredients, like limes, it’s probably best to just pick that up at a nearby grocery store.


Physalis ixocarpa, a tomatillo in the Kemper Center for Home Gardening. Photo by Cassidy Moody.

While it doesn’t appear to be part of Matt Carpenter’s secret salsa, tomatillo is another popular salsa ingredient. It’s in the same family as tomato, and grows in similar conditions. If you plan to pinch hit for tomatoes and use tomatillos to make salsa verde, you’ll want to harvest while the fruit is still green and tart.

Pairing your salsa with guacamole? Learn more about the mighty avocado.

We can’t promise your home-grown salsa will improve your batting average, but it will definitely make you more popular at your next party! And if the #RallySalsa really does work for the Cardinals, maybe it will be a playoff watch party!


Cassidy Moody – Digital Media Specialist


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