Grow Your Own Sauce: Gardening by the Ingredients Label

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Got a favorite variety of hot salsa or pasta sauce (my personal favorites) that you buy at the grocery store? When you’re heating up the jar of sauce you bought for your spaghetti, do you add some extra stuff, like more salt or pepper, to make it taste just the way you like it? 

Maybe you enjoy foods that are more on the spicy side, but the manufacturer of your favorite sauce keeps its product milder than you prefer in order to sell it to the masses. 

If you enjoy gardening, why not grow your own sauce and ingredients, make it yourself, and season it just the way you like it, to begin with? 

You already have a list of what you need to plant. It’s right there on the store-bought jar.

Grow your ingredients list

Take, for example, a Mexican-style salsa that’s very popular in the southern states. The label on the jar lists only four ingredients: 

  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Serrano Peppers
  • Salt

They’re listed based on predominance in the mix, so there you have the beginning of a recipe. Say you like this salsa, but it’s just a bit spicier than you prefer, and you would enjoy it more if it included some cilantro. 

Well, you can probably grow everything but the salt. If you’re already a gardener, chances are you know how best to grow tomatoes in your area. 

Green onions are a preferred variety for this style of salsa, and they, along with peppers, are easy to grow. 

As far as cilantro goes, you can grow that in a garden or in your window flower box if you need to. There’s your salsa. All you have to do is put it together with the way you like it.

You can do the same using the ingredient lists you find on other sauces. Although many of the spices used may be things you would need to buy, you can probably grow the bulk of what you need in your garden.

It’s time to tweak the recipe

Once you’re able to harvest your ingredients, it’s time to start experimenting. You can add more or less of any ingredient, like adding more garlic to your pasta sauce. 

You can add new things or replace certain varieties of ingredients with others, like using jalapenos in place of Serrano peppers in your salsa to give it a slightly different flavor. 

A big advantage of using this method is that you’re starting with something you already know you like and tweaking it to make it even better.

There are other potential advantages as well. Perhaps you’re allergic to something that’s in a sauce you enjoy. Thus you’re unable to eat it. Just leave that ingredient out of your recipe, or replace it with something else. 

Maybe you have high blood pressure, and you aren’t supposed to eat sauces high in sodium. Make yours a low-salt recipe.

Leftovers it is.

Gardeners know it’s usually feast or famine. Tomatoes are a good example. One day you get two, the next day you get two dozen. If you like a pot of hot chili now and then, why not use your over-abundance to make up some jars of chili base by adding some onions, peppers, and chili powder? 

Later, when you crave chili, cook the meat, add it to your base, and enjoy. If you have too many peppers and you have a dehydrator, dry and grind them. You can use them to spice up your next batch of sauce. You could do the same with excess onions.

Save the rest for later.

If you’re making tomato-based sauces, tomatoes are, of course, the predominant ingredient. Tomatoes are acidic, thus sauces made with them can be preserved using the water bath canning method – no pressure cooker necessary. Instructions are readily available online. 

Just pick up some canning jars and lids and get busy. Water bath canning involves a big pot of boiling water, so be careful and heed all the warnings. 

Also, how long you need to leave a jar in the bath depends on the size of the jar, so take note of the time requirements.

Without having to plant a huge garden, you can stock a good number of cabinet shelves with your own custom sauce creations and say goodbye to store-bought. And, if you canned them correctly, they will stay good at least until next season’s ingredients are ready for harvest.

That’s a wrap!

When you want to grow your own sauce, you can simply use the labels of your favorite canned sauces as planting guides for your garden and starting points for your own recipes. Once you harvest the ingredients, you can make your own customized versions of your favorite sauces and salsas.

You’ll reap the many health benefits associated with gardening and growing your own food as you revel in the satisfaction of making something that tastes far better than anything that comes off the store shelf. 

If you’ve been unable to enjoy some of your favorite sauces because of allergies or health issues, you may be able to enjoy them again simply by leaving out or replacing what you can’t have. Why not give it a try?