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The Negative-Calorie Pizza

February 19, 2014

Credit: Margaret Boyles
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I’ve made homemade pizza nearly every Saturday night for many years. What’s more, I’ve (unscientifically) calculated that the process of making my scrumptious pizzas actually consumes more calories than they deliver.

So, you probably want the recipe, right?
 
It all starts in late September.
Collect fall leaves and pine needles to replenish supply of garden mulch; store large stacks of cardboard hauled home from town dump (to keep weeds down under the electric woodchuck fence). 
 
Finish splitting and stacking the winter firewood, which will heat the house come winter, and simmer those pizza sauces to thick, aromatic perfection. 
 
Amend next spring’s planting areas as recommended by a soil test, broadcasting last winter’s wood ashes, and raking or tilling in compost. Either mulch or sow cover crops—whole oats and field peas—to cover bare soil over winter.
 
Drain, clean, and coil irrigation hoses. Store in shed loft.
 
Mid-October through December
Separate the largest and best-formed garlic bulbs harvested in July and plant the cloves in well-composted soil in mid-October. Mulch heavily to prevent heaving. 
 
In late October, sow cover crop of winter rye in newly cleared garden areas. 
 
Clean and thoroughly sanitize the henhouse, hauling the droppings-rich bedding to the compost pile and adding fresh bedding straw to the house and the nests.
 
Haul kitchen scraps to up the hill to the compost pile--on snowshoes when necessary. Store wood ashes in covered metal container in shed, away from house. Save newspapers and cardboard for mulch.
 
January-April
Order “pizza” seeds (along with seeds for all the other crops) to ensure good choice of varieties: tomatoes, sweet and warm peppers, onions, basil, and parsley. 
 
In late February, sow onion and parsley seeds under lights. Six weeks later, sow tomatoes, peppers, and basil (as well as cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, flowers). Water seedlings as needed; keep full-spectrum fluorescent lights on 12 hours a day.
 
In mid-April, begin hardening off onion seedlings, setting flats outdoors for gradually increasing periods of time. Around this time, haul down, uncoil the hoses, and assemble the irrigation lines that lead from the pond pump to the garden high on the hill behind the house.
 
Around the third week in April (providing garden soil has dried enough), transplant 1200 hardened onion seedlings into amended soil, setting seedlings four to five inches apart. Irrigate and weed beds as needed throughout season. 
 
Make a new spot for this year’s compost pile, turning and nurturing the old pile to get it to heat up the winter’s collection of scraps. Move compost pile to new spot. Add weeds and kitchen scraps as they accumulate. Acquire two pickup loads of leaf compost from commercial supplier; broadcast (with shovel) over planting beds. 
 
Repair any breaks in electric woodchuck fence, spread cardboard mulch under entire perimeter. Switch on fence-charger. Test line. Ouch!
 
May
Retrieve tomato supports and polyester row covers from garden shed. Set up support structures and wire cages for bush types. Begin hardening off tomatoes, peppers, and basil. 
 
Memorial Day weekend: Transplant hardened tomato, pepper and basil seedlings into garden. (Though not directly related to pizza: transplant cabbage, broccoli, leeks; direct-sow bok choi, beans, potatoes, carrots, kale, winter squash, cucumbers, zucchini, watermelon, and cantaloupe. Spread row covers over non-pizza crops as needed to foil insects.)
 
June to mid-July 
Don bathing suit to periodically harvest pond weeds from backyard pond. Add weeds to mulch collection.
 
Once soil has warmed, mulch entire planting bed with underlayer of hoarded newspaper topped with leaves, pine needles, old hay, and pond weeds. Pull any weeds that emerge.
 
Tie up and prune vining tomato varieties as they grow. Water garden beds whenever top two inches of soil dry out. Monitor all crops for signs of insect pests and disease.
 
Remove garlic scapes as they form; eat in salads and stir-fries.
 
Mid-July through mid-August
Harvest garlic when all but three blades have begun turning brown. Set in warm, dry, well-ventilated space to cure. Begin daily check for early blight on lower leaves of tomatoes; remove any leaves with lesions. 
 
Pull row covers off cucumbers, squash and melons as soon as female blossoms appear, to let pollinating insects do their work. Keep watering and weeding as needed. Make successive plantings of non-pizza salad crops.
 
Harvest and dry year's supply of perennial Greek oregano and rosemary.
 
Mid-August-Labor Day weekend 
Remain vigilant with insect, disease surveillance activities. Harvest onions as tops begin falling over; spread to dry in protected area on wire racks. Remove tops when fully dry and store bulbs in cool cellar.
 
Harvest tomatoes as they ripen. Simmer a few bushels of them down; can as thick, unflavored sauce.
 
September through early November: Harvest and store crops in timely fashion. Spread compost, sow cover crops in bare spots. Wash row covers gently in warm, soapy water; hang on line to dry, fold and store.
 
Saturday afternoons December through March 
Prepare pizza dough. Fire up the wood cookstove, remove sauce from jar or freezer, simmer on stovetop with sauteed onions, garlic, and peppers. Add herbs. 
 
Build and bank fire, heat oven to about 400°. Assemble pizza. Slip into oven until cheese bubbles and browns.
 
Voila! Your nega-cal pizza. Add a salad. Enjoy!
 
 

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Margaret Boyles lives in a wood-heated house in central New Hampshire. She grows vegetables, eats weeds, keeps chickens, swims in a backyard pond in summer, snowshoes in the surrounding woods in winter, and commutes by bike whenever possible.

Comments

This sounds like a lot of

By georgewilson

This sounds like a lot of work! As a gardener, however, I know that some tomatoes and a few veggie/herb seeds is all you need to grow a pizza garden. Never made dough though!

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