Wednesday, March 02, 2011

No Mozzarella or Pepperoni, but Many Other Pizza Ingredients are Found in this Garden...

What grows in pizza garden?  Tomatoes, basil, oregano, bell peppers, onions, garlic
Did you know that there is a big outdoor pizza in Otero County in southern New Mexico? Well actually, it's a garden shaped like a pizza. The space is round like a pizza shell and is divided into wedges (pizza slices), and each wedge contains a plant that is used as an ingredient in pizza. There are bell peppers, oregano, basil, garlic, onions, and tomato plants.  

And even though many Italian chefs will tell you that Romas make the best tomato sauce, this garden does not confine itself to that variety. "We use a variety of heirloom and organic tomatoes, and include cherries as well as the larger varieties," said Julia Price, executive director of the New Mexico Alliance for Children

The pizza garden has been a feature of the Mescalero Apache Boys and Girls Club just outside the mountain community of Ruidoso in Otero County since 2007. The project is sponsored by the NM Alliance for Children and the Eating SmART program. Eating SmArt is designed to reduce food insecurity for children in economically deprived circumstances.

Amricorps volunteer with two young gardeners
The pizza-shaped plot has two other companion garden, the Three Sisters Garden and a Sunflower House.  The children are involved in the process from the very beginning from design, to care, to harvest.

"The children’s learning garden teaches sustainable living and the growth and nurturing of edible plants," said the alliance. "The garden brings the nutritional concepts to life and becomes an additional food source for the kids and their families." 

Julia Price
The garden also offers children the opportunity to experience eating fresh produce out of the garden.  "One child had never tasted a fresh bell pepper before," said Julia Price.

"We find that kids are more likely to eat healthy produce they have grown themselves!"-NM Alliance for Children
And there's more. "The garden project also increases environmental awareness and provides opportunities to hone math, science, and language arts skills," said the alliance.

Art is indeed a very important part of the project.  The children are asked to decorate the bricks that are used to mark the "pizza wedges" in the garden.

The garden projects are a very important link to the No Kid Hungry New Mexico campaign, which was launched in Albuquerque last Friday. The main sponsor of the campaign locally is the New Mexico Collaboration to End Hunger, which partnered with Julia Price in 2007 to develop Eating SmArt.  

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