Today was the first summer-warm day we’ve had, so when I got my orders packed and in the mail, I headed to the garden store. Every year I tell myself that I don’t have time for a big garden. Maybe I’ll just plant flowers this year, I think. Maybe I won’t fill all of the planters on the deck again. Then I go to the local garden store and it’s all over.

I brought my son with me this time. He’s 11 and he has “helped” me with the garden since he could walk. Now he really is a help. We browsed every aisle and checked out every plant before making our choices. When we got to the herbs, we played a game: I would brush a hand over the leaves and he’d sniff and identify. Some he knew right away (lavender) and others (sweet woodruff) weren’t familiar. But when we got to the oregano, he breathed deeply, said, “Oh, oregano,” and asked if I would please buy it and make pizza with it tonight. How could I say no to that?

On this trip we came home with oregano, basil, thyme, and cilantro, which I planted all together in a big pot just outside my kitchen door: just in time for pizza night. Friday is pizza night at our house, and most of the time I make it from scratch. My bread machine quit months ago, so I use this quick pizza crust recipe:

1 pkg active dry yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast)
1 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

I use instant yeast because there’s no need to dissolve or proof it. Just mix it in with the flour and other dry ingredients, stir in water and oil, and knead with additional flour, if necessary, until dough can be worked and isn’t sticky. Divide the dough in half and roll out to make two crusts. Grease your pans with a bit of olive oil (or preheat your pizza stones) then place your rolled dough into the two pans. If you have a little time, you can let the dough rise a bit before topping, but we can never wait! (This pizza tastes good even if you don’t let the crust rise!)

Our favorite is to spread a few tablespoons of olive oil on the crust, cover with minced garlic (4 or 5 cloves isn’t unheard of around here), then add a layer of mozzarella. Sliced black olives, artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, feta, and spinach are more of our favorite toppings. My husband also likes grilled chicken on his. Add whatever toppings you like, and don’t forget the most important ingredient: fresh herbs, chopped and added to the top. Bake in 400° oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until cheeses are melted.

Tonight we added basil, thyme, and of course, oregano. The plants were tiny so I didn’t add very much; by July I’ll be picking them by the handful and feeling really glad that I changed my mind about planting them! I realized tonight that this is what summer feels (smells, tastes) like to me, this is what it’s about: stepping outside and picking zucchini, salad greens, and yes, my own oregano, and adding them to my plate every day. It’s a simple thing that makes me happy. So I guess I’ll be having that garden after all.

How about you? When do you really know that summer has arrived? What does summer taste like to you?