The rain poured today. The wind pounded the droplets against the window as it came down.  The pattering of water could be heard throughout the house with the gust of wind howling by.  And just when I think the sun will never come, the clouds break and the light dances across the rain-covered lawn.  I look in the distance and see the shimmer of the lake glistening with sunlight.  April is on its way out and we make way for the joys of May.

I delight in the old saying that April showers bring May flowers.  And greens, April showers bring more greens to the table.  As May approaches the hope and dream of expanding growth feel the air.  The yards around me are exploding in life.  The options at the farmers markets are growing.  The growing season is upon us and it a most exciting time to push yourself in the kitchen.

There are many early greens that I thoroughly enjoy but one of the lesser used is stinging nettle.  I avoided fresh nettle for quite some time.  I was intimidated by it, the feeling of unfamiliarity taking over and leading me to avoid working with it in its fresh form.  I had started using nettle tinctures and teas and reaping the benefits of nettle but I was fearful of the sting of fresh nettle.

Stinging nettle can often be foraged for if you know what you are doing.  However, many farms in your area might be growing their own patch of nettle.  For me, this was the turning point from being fearful to embracing all the goodness of nettle.  Last Spring I had the opportunity to include nettle in some of my Heart in Soil produce shares.  I dove into cooking with it alongside my customers and embraced it full on.  It felt so rewarding to expand my knowledge about a plant and push myself outside of my comfort zone.  Supporting local farmers and seasonal food is a big focus in my kitchen and I knew that nettle had to start being a part of my Spring menu.

This year I found myself seeking it out, eagerly awaiting its arrival at farmers market.  Dreaming of a “cake” recipe that I made last year, I called it “cake bread” so that my kids would try it.  The sweetness was subtle, and the texture was like a moist cornbread.  It was delicious and provided an excellent way to include nettle into my family’s diet without fussing and resistance.  Overcoming resistance is also why I called it “cake bread”. I knew with the word “cake” involved I would have everyone’s willingness to try it, even the then-3-year-old.

Stinging nettle is a fantastic Spring addition to the diet.  It provides seasonal allergy support, which for me usually starts up as the plants start to bloom and the pollen starts to produce.  So it is a great powerhouse for my immune system.

There are many ways to include stinging nettle into your diet and for me personally I choose several routes, however the little people in my house are not always a fan of sautéed greens so disguising or incorporating these powerhouse plants into our meals are key.

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Orange, Lemon & Nettle Cornmeal Tea Cake

Source: Jen Iacoboni

Course: Desserts

Serves:

Ingredients

  • 12 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup nettle
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 12 cup organic white flour
  • 12 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup oats
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 12 cup ghee or butter, melted
  • 12 cup organic cane sugar
  • Zest and juice from one lemon
  • For the topping:
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Honey
  • Ghee or butter, (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350*.
  2. While oven is warming up start on the nettle. Remove nettle from container using tongs or kitchen gloves to avoid sting. Place in colander and rinse, once rinsed place in blender. Combine eggs, orange juice, honey and nettle in blender. Blend until smooth.
  3. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl while ghee or butter is melting on the stove top. Once it has melted add to the dry ingredients, along with the vanilla, lemon zest and juice and blender ingredients. Stir until smooth.
  4. Oil a casserole dish or cake pan, 8×8 is a great size. Pour batter into oiled pan and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes.
  5. Allow the cake to cool, once cooled sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve with ghee or butter and drizzle honey over each piece.

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