Pizza made at home is easy and fun, and with your own fresh herbs it can be the best ever! Here are the plants you will need:
Oregano - 3 plants
Thyme - 2 plants
Chives - 1 plant
Rosemary - 1 plant
Basil - 1 pot will have 6 - 8 plants, which you can separate and plant individually,
or you may plant as a clump.
Oregano, thyme and chives are perennials and will live for many years. Basil is an annual. Rosemary is a "tender" perennial [in New England] which will live many years if you dig it up each fall and put in a pot indoors. (Put in your sunniest place and do not overwater!)
Choose a sunny place with soil that has good drainage. Dig down about a foot to turn the soil over well, chopping it up finely. It should be crumbly. Add a bit of sand if not. Space the plants about a foot apart. Basil will grow to about 2' tall. Everything else will be about 12" tall or less. Water when the soil is dry. Basil likes more water than the others do.
By mid-June your plants should be large enough for you to snip off some leaves to enjoy fresh on your pizza. Regularly pinch off and use the tips of the basil to prevent flowering. In July you should be able to harvest enough oregano and thyme to dry for use later. To harvest, cut off the top third or half of these plants and they will grow a second crop. Harvest whenever there has been strong growth, before flowering. The chives and basil should be used fresh all summer. You can also harvest the chives: chop finely and freeze in a plastic bag, or keep in an uncovered glass dish in the refrigerator until dry, perhaps a week or so (then save on a dark shelf in a tight jar). When the chives plant flowers, use the flowers to make a flavored vinegar, and cut the plant back to several inches to encourage new growth. Dry or freeze the cuttings. Rosemary has very strong flavor so a little goes a long way. Remove from the stem and chop the leaves finely to use fresh. Rosemary is dried the same way as oregano and thyme.You will want to cut the branches more carefully to help shape the plant.
To dry the oregano and thyme: cut the top third to half of each plant. Do your cutting about 11 a.m. on a dry day. Leave the leaves on the stems. Spread the cuttings in a flat basket or on a tray and leave in a dry, warm part of the house. The top shelf of a pantry might work. Avoid sunlight. In several weeks the leaves should feel crisp. If not, leave them longer. When they are dry, you can crunch the leaves off the stems and store in a tin or jar in a cool place. For best flavor, keep the leaves as whole as possible until you use them. They will keep good flavor for about a year. To use, rub between your palms directly onto the pizza.
Other uses: Thyme and rosemary, dried or fresh, are wonderful additions to roasts, stews, grilled meats and breads. Chives add flavor to eggs, dips, vegetables, potatoes. Pesto is an easy and unique use for basil. Oregano is the basic flavor for spaghetti sauce but can also be used in roasts and stews.
Excerpt from A Garden for Pizza, a theme-garden handout, written by Gail Pierson Cromwell of The New England Unit of The Herb Society of America.
Dissolve 1 package dry yeast in 1 1/3 cups warm water. Let stand a few minutes.
Add 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar, 2 tablespoons olive oil and 3 - 3 3/4 cups flour (King Arthur bread flour works well). Note: If you like a fluffier crust, increase the sugar to 1 tablespoon.
Knead a few minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Put several tablespoons olive oil in a bowl, roll the dough over in it, and cover with plastic wrap to rise. Rising will take 1-2 hours depending on the temperature. Ideal rising temperature is 85-90 degrees.
When approximately double in size, remove from bowl, and with a small amount of flour, shape to fit your pans. Don't knead. Cut in half to make 2 x 12" pizzas, or leave whole for a 16" pizza or a jelly roll pan. Most pans do not need greasing. A jelly roll pan or cookie sheet does (use a few tablespoons olive oil). Heat oven to 450 degrees.
Brush top of dough with olive oil and add your desired topping.
A fresh tip!
Fresh basil leaves can be torn into smaller pieces, if desired. The edges won't blacken as quickly if the leaves are torn rather than cut.
A Garden for Pizza
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Fresh Tomato & Basil: Chopped fresh tomatoes which have been peeled, seeded, and squeezed to remove as much water as possible. Add salt to taste, a handful or two of Parmesan cheese, 2 chopped cloves of garlic if desired. After baking, sprinkle with additional Parmesan and fresh basil leaves.
2. Basic Herb: Brush generously with olive oil, add your favorite herbs--chives, oregano, thyme, rosemary (experiment to find what quantities you like), and perhaps some crumbled Feta cheese or Parmesan. Add garlic if you like it. Drizzle with more olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Add basil leaves fresh after baking. Also a little extra Parmesan or Romano sprinkled on when the pizza is hot from the oven can be very tasty.
3. Traditional: Canned tomato puree, salt and pepper to taste, sliced onions, peppers, mushrooms, sausage if desired, oregano, thyme, rosemary, topped with an 8 oz. package of shredded cheese.
Depending on the topping, pizza bakes in about 15 minutes, more or less. The edges of the crust will be just light brown.
Recipes from A Garden for Pizza, a theme garden handout, written by Gail Pierson Cromwell of The New England Unit of The Herb Society of America.