The Salsa Dance

No special promotions are needed to summon foodies downtown every Saturday morning. The July farmers’ market is alive with color, intoxicating aromas, and healthy, uncomplicated foods that require little or no cooking. You can pretty much follow your nose to find the best bargains in town.

Vine-ripened tomatoes and just-picked corn win the popularity contest, with snappy-fresh green beans; juicy watermelons; and locally-grown berries and stone fruits tied for second place.

By now just about everyone understands the flavor-advantage of letting tomatoes mature on the vine; but please don’t overlook the importance of buying corn directly from the farmer who grew it. The moment corn is picked, its natural sugars immediately begin to convert to starch. So if you are looking for the kind of corn that memories are made of, it can be found only at the farmers’ market… or possibly a rural roadside farm stand or in your own backyard garden. But that’s it.

Corn-on-the-cob—quickly steamed, boiled, or grilled—is one of those seasonal necessities few can resist. But this is no time to get into a rut. There are plenty of other ways to enjoy corn; ways that don’t involve a stream of butter running down your forearm.Alive media magazine july 2016 corn illustration market fresh peggy fallon

Californians love our naturally low-fat salsas, but the quality of ingredients is the game-changer. Forget the refrigerated plastic tubs of mushy stuff from the supermarket and create your own tantalizing flavor combinations at home. Farm-fresh cornand vine-ripened tomato, with just a hint of smokiness and heat from the chiles, make this one of my July favorites.To ensure your social standing, bring this to your next potluck or barbecue.

Roasted Corn Salsa with Poblano and Lime

2 poblano chile peppers

4 ears farm-fresh corn

1 tablespoon California olive oil

Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 medium-to-large vine-ripened tomato, seeded and chopped

1 large green onion (scallion), white and green parts thinly sliced

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or as needed

  1. Place the peppers on a small baking sheet and broil as close to the heat as possible, turning with tongs, until charred all over, about 10 minutes. (Alternatively, roast the peppers directly over a charcoal or gas flame, turning, until charred, about 5 minutes.) Seal the peppers in a paper bag and let steam for at least 10 minutes. Peel off as much of the blackened skin as possible; it’s okay if some of the black bits still cling to the flesh. Cut the peppers open and discard the stems and seeds. Chop the peppers into a small dice.
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Shuck the corn and remove the silk.Using a large, sharp knife, cut each ear of corn in half crosswise.Place a cutting board inside of a large, rimmed baking sheet. Working one half-ear at a time, securely hold the corn cob upright on the board, with its cut-side planted firmly on the surface. Cut downward with the knife, “shaving” the kernels fromthe cob. (Halving the ear makes cutting off the kernels less cumbersome; and the rimmed baking sheet will catch any runaway kernels.) You should have around 2 cups of kernels; more is even better.
  2. Lift out the cutting board and scrape the kernels onto the baking sheet. Drizzle the olive oil over the corn and season lightly with salt and pepper. Spread the corn into an even layer and bake, stirring once or twice, until some of the kernels are lightly browned at the edges, about 10 minutes. Scrape into a mixing bowl and let cool slightly.
  1. Add the diced poblanos, tomato, onion, lime juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Toss gently to mix. Taste, adding more salt or lime juice as needed. Scrape the salsa into a serving bowl. Serve at once, or cover and refrigerate for up to 8 hours. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled. Makes about 2 3/4 cups, to serve 10 to 12

                                                                Salsa Savvy

–Poblano chiles are generally fairly mild, but once in a while you can come across a maverick that is surprisingly hot. To err on the safe side, taste the roasted peppers before adding the full amount to the salsa.

–Feel free to add some of your other favorite ingredients to this basic salsa. Consider diced avocado, coarsely chopped cilantro, or cooked black beans. Taste before serving, adding more salt and/or lime juice if needed.

–Don’t limit your salsa intake to simply an accompaniment to tortilla chips. Salsa is a welcome side-salad or complement to grilled shrimp, salmon or other fish; grilled chicken or meats; and quesadillas or other Mexican-style dishes.

The Danville Certified Farmers’ Market, located at Railroad & Prospect, is open every Saturday, rain or shine, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. For specific crop information call the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association at 1-800-949-FARM, or visit their web site at This market is made possible through the generous support of the Town of Danville. Please show your appreciation by patronizing the many fine shops and restaurants located in downtown Danville. Buy fresh. Buy local. Live well!



Weeds, Tomatoes and Trees

Q. I’ve laid bark over landscape fabric for weed control following the instructions on the packaging. After four days, I was very surprised to find weeds growing right through the material. How do I get rid of the weeds? What can I do to prevent this from happening again?

A. To be effective, the bark or any other type of mulch should be at least two inches thick for weed control. The combination of the fabric and the mulch prevents light from reaching the soil. Without a light source, the dormant weed seeds can’t germinate. In the past, black plastic was used, however it did not allow the soil to breathe. Moisture was trapped under the barrier. Plants suffered from root rot from the excessive moisture. To correct the current situation, I’d spray the unwanted vegetation with Round Up and add additional mulch to prevent others from germinating. Many people believe that this will prevent weeds from ever being a problem again in this area. They are sadly mistaken when the weeds return. The landscape fabric will prevent only those weed seeds from germinating that is under it. It isn’t effective controlling any weed seeds above the barrier. Weed seeds move from area to area by the wind. As the hills turn brown, the seeds produce by the annual grasses and other plants are transported to new areas. Bark or any other mulch stored in open bins and delivered in bulk are more likely to have weed seeds than those packaged in bags. Over time the bark breaks down and become fine particles. It’s a perfect medium for seeds to sprouts and grow. Monterey Weed Stopper is a pre-emergent herbicide that sets up a chemical barrier that kills the weed seeds before they germinate. It’s too late to apply it once you see any growth. To keep the area weed free, be sure to follow the instructions on the label and don’t cultivate the area. If you do, you’ll have to reapply the material, as the barrier is broken.

Q. I have two tomato plants growing in large pots. They are doing well, in fact you can almost watch them grow. But, I’m a bit concerned because they are so very bushy. Should I strip some of the growth off or just let them continue on?

Tomato Plant in a Pot isolated on a white backgroundA. It is important for tomatoes to be bushy with lots of leaves. The foliage cover is a type of natural sun block protecting the ripening tomatoes from sunburn. Sunburn is a tan/beige spot that forms on the south and southwest side of the fruits. But, you can have too much of a good thing. I’d selectively thin out the inside, secondary shoots that forms were a leaf connects to a stem. The center of the plants become crowded and dense as they mature, especially when you’re using a tomato cage. This will let in more light and increases the air circulation throughout the plant keeping the inside foliage from turning brown. I’d repeat this as necessary. You should also be on the lookout for Tomato Hornworm. They like to hide out in the center of the plant and eat their way outward. When caught early  you can just pick them off or spray with BT or Captain Jack Dead Bug Brew.    

Q. I have several fruit trees; orange, cherry and plum, planted on a slope. They all have a basin but the water seems to run out before it sinks into the ground. How can I get the water to penetrate faster?

A. Watering basins are a must today with the ongoing water restrictions. With plants planted on a slope, they should be six to eight inches high on the downside to form a sufficient watering basin. A soil surfactant such as EZ Wet from Grow More, aids or increases the percolation rate, preventing erosion and water run off. EZ Wet makes water “better” at doing its job. It reduces water’s surface tension so it penetrates directly into the root zone, hydrating plants more effectively. It’s applied directly to the watering basin of trees and shrubs. For moisture retention, I’d spread a three inch layer of mulch in the basin and beyond. The cherry and plum are watered every three weeks while the orange is watered more frequently. Instead of using an irrigation system, I’d hand water your trees to make every drop count. The other application is with containers of Japanese Maples, Citrus, Roses, Camellias, and other ornamental plants as it prevents the water from rolling around the root ball and down and out the sides of the container. Soil surfactants are not new as they have been around of decades. They were widely used in previous drought periods. EZ Wet  should be applied every other month through November.