Best Plants to Grow for Pizza Making
Pizza ovens have become increasingly more and more popular to add to ones yard. Pizza ovens can be portable like the Ooni or a built in. The cost difference between the two options is pretty significant so it will depend on my clients' needs and wants on which options we choose to include in their outdoor entertaining space. However, regardless of the option you choose making pizzas is a great activity that all ages can enjoy together. So if you have already gotten a pizza oven or are planning to get one soon, I want to give you some great plants to grow in your garden to compliment your pizza making endeavors.
I had to start with tomatoes because they are usually the base of most pizza sauces and they are so easy to grow. To start off with it is best to buy these plants as starters from a local nursery. Usually people only want one plant worth of each variety of tomato since one plant will provide a whole bounty full of crop.
For tomatoes, it is best to give them ample sunlight and plant once the chance of frost has passed. The more sun they get the more fruit they will give you. When setting up your plants, plan for each individual plant to get a tomato cage to help support the stems as they grow and produce. Otherwise, the stems get heavy with fruit and can easily break. Tomatoes love nutrient rich, well drained soil so before planting make sure to amend your soil with nutrients to help your tomatoes thrive. Overall these are easy plants to include and you can plant them with companion plants such as onions, basil, garlic or marigolds to help keep the pests away from your precious fruit.
Onions are personally my favorite pizza topping that I grow in the garden. I love the sweetness that comes from onions when they are cooked. When using them as a pizza topping for a pizza oven, you can either use them raw or cook them ahead of time. The pizza oven cooks pizzas so quickly that it won’t have time to cook the onions soft so if you prefer them this way, plan to pre-sauté them on the stovetop.
For onions, I like to get them in 6-packs at the nursery in the spring or fall. I use so many onions in my cooking that it just makes sense to have numerous plants of the same variety. They are not too big of plants so you can fit quite a few of them in a planter (planted just 6 inches apart). I usually add onions to the corners of a few of my garden beds with a different variety of onion used at each location. Since the roots of onions are shallow, it is important to water them often so that the plant don't get too dry. However, the great part about onions is that you can harvest them at any time. The size of an onion doesn't determine how they taste so harvest when you need.
The crunch of peppers and either sweetness or spiciness (depending on the variety) of them can really add tastiness not only to a sauce but also as topping. Before using them as a topping on your pizza decide whether you want to pre-sauté them or not. Peppers are just like onions in that the pizza oven is way to quick to soften them in the oven.
Like tomatoes, I like to purchase these as starter plants. One plant will give you lots of harvest so you will probably want different varieties as opposed to numerous plants of the same variety. Peppers grow best in sunny spots so choose a location for them carefully. Since peppers also get big, they benefit from a tomato cage to help them grow taller and allow more airflow throughout the plant. During the heat of the summer, watch your plants for stress and if there will be a heatwave coming make sure to give these plants extra water (along with most other plants on this list).
Herbs (Oregano & Basil)
I was torn on which one to include as my herb of choice. Frankly, oregano would usually win out since it is used so often in Italian cooking and really a little bit of oregano goes a long way in adding flavor to any sauce or topping. However, I would be remise not to include basil which is the prime ingredient in any Margherita pizza (basil, tomato & mozzarella). Needless to say, I was torn so I decided to just to include them both. :)