Grow your own pizza garden

When most people think about plant­ing a garden in the spring, they think about the fresh ve­get­ables they will be eat­ing all sum­mer. While ve­get­ables are packed with good nu­tri­ents, a garden provides many oth­er be­ne­fits as well. This year, make plant­ing and tend­ing a garden a fam­ily af­fair, and every­one will har­vest the be­ne­fits. 

“Dig­ging in the dirt is just plain fun for little chil­dren. Why not give them some seeds to put in that dirt to see what they can pro­duce?” said Tammy Roberts, nu­tri­tion and health edu­ca­tion spe­cial­ist with the Uni­versity of Mis­souri Ex­ten­sion. “If a child has grown and har­ves­ted their own food, they are much more likely to eat it. Also, learn­ing to use small garden tools can be good for the de­vel­op­ment of gross- and fine mo­tor skills for chil­dren.”

When we think about plan­ning and caring for the garden, we usu­ally are think­ing about the health­ful be­ne­fits of the food. Make no mis­take; while you are pay­ing at­ten­tion to the chore at hand, your body is be­ne­fit­ting from a good workout as well. 

“Did you know you are ac­tu­ally do­ing some strength-train­ing ex­er­cises while you work in the garden? Next time you are car­ry­ing a wa­ter­ing buck­et or large flower­pot, just think about how that can help your muscles,” said Roberts. Main­tain­ing muscle mass is an im­port­ant part of as­sur­ing good flex­ib­il­ity and bal­ance. And when you are bone-tired from get­ting up and down, know that the slow move­ment of get­ting from a sit­ting to a stand­ing po­s­i­tion is good for main­tain­ing your muscles and bones. 

Garden­ing also is very good for the mind. Chil­dren can learn many sci­ence les­sons in the garden from the be­ne­fits of some bugs to how com­post is made and helps the garden grow. Adults ex­er­cise their brain power in many ways, such as re­search­ing new plants they want to grow, find­ing the best meth­od to man­age pests and learn­ing how to ir­rig­ate the garden. 

Garden­ing is good for the mind in an­oth­er way — it can boost your mood. You can go to the garden in a rot­ten mood, but it’s pretty hard to leave the same way, es­pe­cially if you are car­ry­ing your first ripe red to­mato! Garden­ing also is the per­fect way to in­tro­duce chil­dren to healthy eat­ing habits that they will con­tin­ue for the rest of their lives.

Once your beau­ti­ful herbs and ve­get­ables are ready to eat, try pre­par­ing my simple re­cipe for Garden Fresh Pizza. It’s like a de­li­cious, fresh salad on a piece of flat­bread. It’s also the per­fect re­cipe to get your chil­dren in­to the kit­chen to help pre­pare their own meals and to eat more ve­get­ables!

Garden Fresh Pizza

This fresh, easy pizza is the per­fect way to bring your chil­dren in­to the kit­chen. Older chil­dren can slice the softer ve­get­ables us­ing a dis­pos­able ser­rated plastic knife. Young­er chil­dren can pick the herbs and tear them. Spread­ing the cheese and pla­cing the ve­get­ables on the pizza crust can be a fun, fam­ily af­fair. Best of all, your pizza is ed­ible art!

1 pack­age (12-inch) pre­b­aked, thin Itali­an pizza crust, like Bo­boli 

Non-stick cook­ing oil spray

1 cup chopped fresh spin­ach 

1 large to­mato, chopped (about 1 cup)

3/4 cup shred­ded car­rots 

1/2 cup green onions, roots re­moved, white and green parts, chopped

1 ta­ble­spoon chopped fresh basil leaves 

1/2 ta­ble­spoon chopped fresh oregano

1 tea­spoon salt

1 tea­spoon pep­per

1 con­tain­er (6.5 oz) 50 per­cent-less-fat gar­lic-and-herb spread­able cheese 

1/2 cup sliced, fresh mush­rooms 

1/2 cup finely diced, seeded cu­cum­ber 

1 ta­ble­spoon olive oil

1/4 cup Parmes­an cheese, op­tion­al

1. Pre­heat oven to 450 F. Lightly mist a 12-inch pizza pan or cook­ie sheet with non­stick cook­ing spray. Place the pizza crust on the pan. Bake about 8 to 10 minutes to crisp the pizza crust.

2. Us­ing a food pro­cessor or blender, pur­ee 1/2 cup each of the spin­ach, the to­ma­toes, car­rots, 1/4 cup of the green onions, and the basil, oregano, salt and pep­per to make a chunky sauce. 

3. Spread the cheese over the pizza crust and the ve­get­able sauce over the cheese. Place the re­main­ing spin­ach, to­ma­toes, mush­rooms and cu­cum­ber on the pizza. Sprinkle with the re­main­ing car­rots and green onions. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with Parmes­an cheese, if de­sired.

Cut pizza in­to 4 wedges to serve. ••

  An­gela Shelf Medear­is is an award-win­ning chil­dren’s au­thor, culin­ary his­tor­i­an and au­thor of sev­en cook­books. Her new cook­book is “The Kit­chen Diva’s Dia­bet­ic Cook­book.”

      Her web­site is www.di­ 

You can reach at .

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