Involving your child in the task of planning for a garden, creating the garden and maintaining the garden will teach the responsibility and instill the value of working hard and reaping the rewards.
To start, we want to grow the ingredients used on pizza. We'll
show you how to grow two vegetables and two herbs used often on
homemade pizzas in your own Italian pizza garden.
Not all pizza uses tomato sauce, but almost all pizzas do have
tomatoes in some form -either as a sauce, or simply as a topping.
The best tomatoes for toppings are Roma tomatoes. Italian tomatoes
which are similar to Roma tomatoes, are bigger but can be hard to
find. Roma tomatoes are perfect for toppings because they are
meaty and do not contain a lot of juice such as a beefsteak
tomato. The extra juice can cause the pizza dough to become soggy.
Make sure you plant the right type of tomato in your Italian pizza
Tomatoes growing from seed must be started indoors during the winter months and receive proper care. It is much easier to purchase tomato plants from a local hardware or garden store. If you have a large family you will want to buy more than just one plant. It is a good idea to buy at least two or three plants. This way, if one should not survive due to insects or disease, you still have the others.
There are different varieties of tomatoes, so growing times may
vary. However with Roma tomatoes it can take two months until they
start producing edible fruit. If using container gardening you
will need to water much more frequently than if planting in the
ground. Regardless, you always want to make sure your soil is rich
in nutrients and if possible organic. It is important when using
containers, to use potting mix - not potting soil. In addition, if
container gardening, remember you will need to add fertilizer
throughout the growing season in your Italian pizza garden
depending on specifications which should be indicated on the bag.
Our next ingredient to grow are green peppers. These are a great
addition when creating a vegetable pizza with mushrooms, red
onions and black olives. As with tomatoes it is best to buy your
pepper plants from the store.
Make sure your soil does not have too much nitrogen as this can
cause the peppers to not produce much yield. As is the same with
tomato plants you only want to plant them when the soil is
approximately 70 degrees F. Space your plants about 2 feet apart
as these will spread out. In addition, the root system can be very
fibrous and we want to avoid any crowding of the roots with
neighboring plants. Water your peppers regularly as they prefer
soil which is moist. Once the peppers are of edible size you know
they are ready to harvest.
You might also consider adding other peppers such as hot peppers in your Italian pizza garden, you can put these on a pizza to add some extra spice. Make sure to involve your child in the decision making process.
Oregano can be grown in partial shade, but it prefers full sun. Space your oregano plants about 2 feet apart like the green pepper plants. It does not require a lot of water, and can do quite well in drier soil if there is plenty of sun.
Keep in mind, oregano is a very strong herb. Thanks to Italy for sharing a little secret oregano- is the secret herb which is used for pizza sauce. To make a quick and easy pizza sauce simply follow the recipe below.
Read more about starting an herb garden.
Basil is a favored herb to use on a pizza as well. In fact many people enjoy a simple combination of sliced tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil leaves as the only toppings. This is called a Margherita pizza named after the Italian Queen, Margherita of Savoy.
When planting basil plants in your Italian pizza garden, make sure they are spaced out about 1 foot apart from each other. Only plant the basil when the temperature is in the 70's, and nighttime temperatures are above 50 degrees as basil is very sensitive to cold weather. Unlike oregano which enjoys a drier soil, basil prefers a moist and rich soil to flourish in. It may be tempting when you first plant the basil to start using the leaves, but it is best to wait until they are approximately 6 inches in height and snip off the first few sets of small leaves which begin to appear. This will help the basil plants produce leaves for a longer period of time. Remember, when using basil for your Margherita pizza, do not put the basil on top until the end of cooking, otherwise the basil will become crispy, burn and lose its flavor.
If using a store bought pizza crust, which is much easier and
quicker than making your own, rub a few small drops of olive oil
on the bottom of the pizza as this will help the pizza have a nice
crispy bottom crust. For a homemade
pizza crust, try this one.
Enjoy your time with your children growing and planning an Italian pizza garden and enjoy eating your pizza!
Liz Krause, from www.simpleitaliancooking.com, is from an Italian family and encourages everyone to have fun in the kitchen.