Fresh vegetables and herbs play an important role in creating top quality vegetarian pizzas. We recommend following the Italian cook’s example and insisting on using only the freshest produce on your pizzas. Local farmers markets are a wonderful way of sourcing cheap, fresh produce that’s usually locally grown and often organic. However, what’s even more satisfying than purchasing from local farmers markets is being able to grow some of this produce yourself at home, and the wonderful thing about growing herbs is that it’s actually very easy to do.
Nothing beats being able to step out onto your patio or back yard, or simply reach over to your kitchen window sill, and pluck some fresh basil or parsley to add to your pizza. A surprising number of herbs are straightforward to grow in window boxes or in pots inside. Some recipes include dried herbs, but fresh herbs are almost always preferred. This is due not only to taste but also nutritional value. Herbs can provide rich sources of minerals and vitamins, and fresh, organically grown herbs are best able to offer these benefits.
Below we’ve listed the main herbs used in the creation of vegetarian pizza, although of course there are many more. Most of these herbs are well loved in Italy – the home of pizza. Along with the main culinary uses and nutritional benefits, we’ve also included a few notes on the medicinal uses of some of these remarkable plants.
Basil is one of the most popular herbs used in Italian cooking, pizza included. Famously used in pesto, basil also compliments tomatoes perfectly and therefore is the perfect herb for use in a number of pasta and pizza recipes that use a tomato base or tomato sauce. Ideally, the leaves should be torn rather than chopped.
Basil is easy to grow and can be kept indoors or out; if you don’t have a garden it’s great to know that basil can be very happy living inside on a sunny kitchen window sill.
Oregano and Marjoram
These herbs are for the most part natives to the Mediterranean region, however they have adapted to many other regions, and a native form can now be found in a number of countries around the world (under different names). The oreganos prefer to live outside, but generally do very well in containers. Marjoram and oregano aid the digestion and act as an antiseptic and as a preservative. These herbs have a wide range of culinary uses, and combine exceptionally well with most pizzas and with just about any tomato-based recipe.
Italians favor flat leaf parsley, but the common variety (also known as Rock parsley and Garden parsley) is also an excellent choice for many pizza toppings. Valued for its taste as well as its nutritional content, parsley is a widely used culinary herb. Parsley is a rich source of vitamins including vitamin C. It is also high in iron. Parsley is also a breath freshener, diuretic, antiseptic, and promotes healthy skin.
Parsley is an ideal herb to grow in containers, and also likes living inside on the kitchen windowsill, as long as it is watered frequently, fed and cut.
This shrub is a native to the Mediterranean area but is now found in many temperate regions of the world. A key ingredient in a number of pizza recipes, this herb has a wide range of culinary uses such as infusing roasted vegetables, or adding flavor to barbecues (a twig is simply placed on the grill along with the items being barbecued).
Rosemary does well in containers, and likes being kept in a warm, sunny spot outside.
Rosemary oil has antibacterial and anti-fungal qualities. It provides an excellent remedy for headaches when applied directly to the skin on the head. Eating small amounts of rosemary and drinking rosemary tea in small quantities is also beneficial for digestion. Note that the essential oil extracted from the rosemary plant should NOT be taken internally. Also, please note that extremely large doses of the leaf are toxic.
Sage can be a wonderful addition to vegetarian pizza. There is a wide variety of sage species scattered throughout the world. All sage grow well in containers and the plants prefer a well drained, sunny position. For centuries sage has been esteemed for its remarkable healing powers. It has powerful antiseptic properties and preservative qualities. The flavor is quite strong so it is best used sparingly and with discretion. Used appropriately, sage adds a wonderful flavor as well as aiding digestion of fatty foods. Because it is an antiseptic it also kills of any bugs in the food as it cooks.
This is a versatile herb that compliments a huge variety of vegetarian pizza. Its culinary uses are broad; it’s one of the main ingredients of bouquet garni and is brilliant in stocks, marinades, stews and stuffings. Thyme aids the digestion and helps to break down fatty foods.
Thyme grows well in containers and likes a sunny position. Water sparingly.
Thyme is esteemed for its strong antiseptic qualities. The oil is anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. A few drops can be added to the bath to ease muscle pain.
Note that the essential oil that is extracted from the thyme plant should ONLY be used externally.