If you're like most people, you love pizza. On average, each American consumes 23 pounds of pizza annually.
Why not make a pizza-shaped garden? In this garden, you can grow the vegetables and herbs used to make pizza sauce and toppings.
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This pizza-shaped garden plan requires few tools and very little time and effort to plant. The whole family can enjoy gardening together, and the project can be used as a tool for teaching the process of growing, harvesting and making your own sauce.
The beauty of the pizza garden is that all the plants require similar growing conditions. Your garden needs to have nutrient-rich soil, proper drainage, and at least six hours of full sun to flourish.
No matter how large you choose to make your garden space, make sure to loosen your garden soil to at least a foot in depth; you might want to amend it with compost.
Creating and planting the pizza garden wedges
Once you have chosen a spot for your pizza garden, you will to need create the pizza circle. Mark off the circle by putting a stake upright in the garden area. Tie a 3 1/2-foot piece of string to the stake.
Keeping the string tight, walk around in a circle and mark the ground to show the garden’s border. Divide the circle into six equal-sized wedges. The “pizza slices” can be defined with rocks, landscaping timbers, or rows of parsley or basil.
In this pizza garden plan, there are three kinds of herbs and three vegetables. These suggested plants can be bought locally at your favorite nursery.
• Oregano: (Origanum vulgare) This aromatic, perennial herb is a member of the mint family. It is easy to grow and gives pizza its characteristic taste and that wonderful smell. You may use it fresh or dried. I suggest one or two plants.
• Basil: (Ocimum basilicum) This aromatic herb is a must in the pizza garden. I grow several every year, and love it for its wonderful culinary uses. It is good in sauce and thrown on the pizza, in the cheese. Basil is an annual herb, and there are many varieties. I recommend the sweet basil variety for your pizza garden. Two or three plants can be planted in the wedge.
• Parsley: (petroselinum) This is a biennial herb that reseeds itself. It is very common in Middle Eastern, European and American cooking. Grow two or three plants in the wedge. You might want to define some of your pizza garden slices with parsley, so you will need several more plants.
• Tomatoes: (Solanum lycopersicum) The tomatoes I suggest to use on a pizza are the “red sauce” tomatoes, or plum (Roma) tomatoes. I find this tomato an excellent paste-type tomato that gives the sauce a hearty flavor and is easy to grow. If you choose, other varieties of tomatoes can be grown and used as well.
Here is a bit of tomato trivia: Did you know that in 1893 the Supreme Court ruled that the tomato must be considered a vegetable? Botanically it is a fruit, but vegetables and fruits were subject to different import duties, so it was necessary to define it as one or the other.
• Bell and hot peppers: There are two main types of peppers, sweet and hot. The classic sweet green bell pepper is a good addition to the pizza garden. Both hot and sweet peppers are a great way to spice up the sauce. I recommend jalapeños for the hot pepper variety. You might want to plant two or three pepper plants, depending on your taste.
• Onions: (Allium cepa) Onions can be planted from sets or transplants. Select red, white or yellow for your garden. You can plant up to 30 onion sets or transplants in your pizza garden wedge. An onion set is a small bulb up to 1 inch in diameter. An onion transplant is a plant 8 to 10 weeks old that has not yet produced a bulb and, if planted at the right time, it produces large bulbs. Onions are edible at any stage. Caring for your garden
Continue to water and weed your garden. You might want to mulch your garden with organic material such as straw or pine needles. Mulch helps to keep the weeds from overtaking your garden.
With regular watering and full sun, in about two months you can harvest and enjoy the fruits of your labor. The pizza sauce can now be made. Buon appetito! (Have a good meal.)
• Plant your garden after Mother’s Day to lessen the chance of frost damage.
• If you’re a garden novice, head to a nursery and begin your garden with plants. Next year, try growing them from seeds.
- Source: Kathy Rohrbaugh, York County Penn State master gardener
Fresh pizza recipe
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2-3 pounds of fresh tomatoes
- Basil, small handful
- Parsley, small handful with bottom stem removed
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Freshly grated cheese (Pecorino Romano or Regianno Parmeggiano)
- Mozzarella cheese, shredded
- Bell or hot peppers, sliced (If desired, sauté rings in olive oil until crisp-tender. Put these aside to top off the pizza.)
- Premade pizza crust
Blanch tomatoes in boiling water, then plunge in cold water. Peel under a stream of cold water and remove seeds. In a large bowl, use your hands to crush tomatoes.
In a deep, heavy saucepan, add olive oil and heat to medium. Add onions and half the garlic. Simmer until onions are translucent. Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste and bring up to a low boil. Simmer for about 30-45 minutes.
Keep stirring from the center of the pan; it will burn if you use a too lightweight pan.
Taste test frequently to see if tomatoes are well-cooked. Then add parsley, basil and remaining garlic. Cook for another three to five minutes. Spread on pizza crust.
Top pizza with cheese and pepper slices.