Garden to Table - Welcome to the Hollyhock Kitchen!

by: Sara on 03/25/2013
Posted in: Cooking

About 10 years ago we published a great cookbook, Hollyhock Cooks, Food to Nourish Body, Mind and Soil from the cooks at Hollyhock, a world-renowned centre for learning and connection located on beautiful Cortes Island. Hollyhock boasts a spectacular garden that produces many of the ingredients used in the cookbook. The recipes were so simple and delicious that I started to fool my friends into thinking I could actually cook! My copy is so battered and worn -- with pages falling out but lovingly stuffed back in, and others stuck together with globs of butter and oatmeal -- that when the new Hollyhock cookbook, Hollyhock: Garden to Table by Moreka Jolar and Heidi Scheifley came off press, I’m certain I heard my my old, tired book sigh with relief!

So today, in celebration of the new book and of one of the first signs of spring – stinging nettle – we’re sharing an amazing recipe from Hollyhock: Garden to Table, showcasing that notorious and nutritious foraged food.

Fershly picked stinging nettles

It’s spring on the West Coast and we’re busy wildcrafting nettles.  It can seem as if the snow has barely melted when these determined little buds are ready to eat. Nettles can grow up to 5 feet high but are at their peak of tenderness and nutrient when just 5 inches out of the ground. That’s the time to harvest.  Nettles will grow just about anyplace: from the tiniest of city parks to the most expansive wilds.  We’re out harvesting with gloves and baskets, and making everything from pesto to soup to dried leaves for tea. Nettles don’t need to be cooked to disable their sting; vigorous blending will do the trick as well.  Just make sure you’re covered while foraging or you might end up with a bit of a grudge against your food. 

With the arrival of Spring comes the release of our new cookbook: Hollyhock Garden to Table.  Boasting over 200 garden-inspired recipes and garden tips from Hollyhock’s Master Gardener, Nori Fletcher.

Follow the cooks at for new recipes every week.  Real food from the people who grow it. 

Thin-Crust Pizza with Nettle Pesto and Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Asparagus and Chèvre

Makes Two 12” pizzas

Take the afternoon to find your local nettle patch. Revel in the time and precision necessary to harvest these prickly, spring buds while you dream of the divine balance of salty dough, sweet roasted sweet potatoes and spicy wild-crafted pesto topped with creamy chèvre. You’ll be glad you took the time. We were.

Stinging Nettle Pesto

Makes 1 ½ cups

(v, g/f)

 ½ lb fresh stinging nettle leaves

2/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil

6 medium garlic cloves

1 tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

A pinch of chile flakes is optional

Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor until they reach the desired consistency.


1 cup warm water (aprx 115°)

2 tsp honey

3 tsp active dry yeast

¼ cup olive oil

1 tsp salt

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour

1+ cup unbleached white flour


3 cups sweet potatoes chopped into ½” cubes (no need to peel)

2 cups asparagus, cut thin at an angle

140g chèvre

A little extra flour or cornmeal and coarse salt

Prepare the dough:

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the honey with the warm water until dissolved. Gently mix the yeast into the water. Allow to rest 5 minutes or until the

The finishing touches!

yeast bubbles up to the surface. Add the oil, salt and whole grain flour and mix well with a wooden spoon or mixer. Slowly begin to add the white flour while mixing. When the dough is firm enough to knead, transfer to a dry, floured surface and knead in the remaining flour. Continue to knead for a couple minutes, always folding the dough over itself and pressing and pushing in a circular motion. Depending on the grind of flour you are using you may need to add a little more. The dough is ready when you can punch your dry fist in and pull it out clean. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth and set in a warm spot for an hour or until the dough has doubled in size, whichever comes first. Our favourite spots for rising dough are sunny windows or floors, beside wood stoves and on the tops of dryers.

Preheat oven to 450°. Drizzle the chopped sweet potatoes with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast on a baking sheet for 20-30 minutes.

Turn oven up to 500°. If you’re using a baking stone, place it in the middle of the oven to preheat.

Punch the dough down with your fist, popping all the air bubbles that have developed. Divide the dough into two equal-sized balls. Keep one ball covered with a damp cloth while you work the other dough. On a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin to begin to work the dough into a flat round. When it is about 7” across  lift the dough onto your well-floured fists and stretch it to 12” across. The dough should be elastic enough that this is very easy. Transfer the finished round onto a pizza peel or an over-turned baking sheet lined with parchment. Sprinkled with cornmeal. Drizzle a little olive oil onto the edges of the crust and sprinkle with coarse salt. Spread 1/2 of the pesto onto the pizza, top with ½ of the roasted sweet potatoes and asparagus and crumble ½ the chèvre.  Put the pizza in the oven or slide off the baking sheet and onto the hot baking stone. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough and toppings. Enjoy immediately.

Moreka Jolar


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