Trusting a company means knowing their practices, from seed to harvest to production, and we got to know Gaia Herbs very well with our recent trip to their 350-acre organic farm in Brevard, North Carolina, where they invited a small group of press to come meet the magic.
Gaia is 30 years old this year. While they have become one of the biggest makers of organic herbal supplements here in the states, they’ve managed to maintain the extremely hands-on production process of their grassroots beginnings. From their seed banking practice to their clean extraction process, Gaia’s “seed to shelf” quality-control and overall transparency is impressive. How many other major supplement companies can say they roll around in their herbs daily like Gaia’s founder, Ric Scalzo?
Ric radiates good vibes that run miles deep. He not only knows every herb on the grounds, and every product on Gaia’s roster, but each of their growing cycles. He also knows weird little bio-hacking wisdoms you can only get to from being tuned in to – and souped up on – top-quality superfoods every day. According to Ric, “wellness isn’t magic, it’s not rocket science, it’s going back to the basics”
Ric acted as our tour guide for a day on Gaia’s sprawling farm. He met us at the farm house, bright and early, where we enjoyed a stunning breakfast prepared with ingredients grown right down the hill.
We spent the morning traipsing through a forest of ginkgo biloba and Hawthorne trees and exploring giant greenhouses filled with Chinese skullcap, holy basil, and ashwagandha.
In the afternoon, we met the farmers who tend to Gaia’s plant-babies year-round. We strolled through echinacea fields, picked passion flower from the vine, and walked through a sea of astragalus. All the while Ric taught us about the growing process, medicinal role and healing power of each and every plant we encountered.
It was as fascinating as one might imagine to see herbs we use daily growing right out of the ground. As one of the Gaia pros reflected, “when we ingest a plant we are consuming more than its chemical composition; there’s a life force, a personality, an energy, so we need to be intentional and aware of what we consume. It’s a key part of wellness.”
To share the farm experience with those who can’t make it their 350-acre farm themselves, Gaia created this interactive site for users to observe and learn about each plant at the source (including videos from the farm, and intimate details of the harvesting cycle).
After touring the farm, we returned to the farmhouse for lunch – another stunning farm-to-table spread. We then headed back to the fields where we plucked shitake straight from the log, huffed lemon balm as a group (instant anxiety killer) and explored the versatile healing power of stinging nettles.
After a long and beautiful day, we crawled back to our cozy cabins, buzzing with inspiration, and a new, deep understanding of herbs and herbal supplements. Get a piece of the magic with Ric’s recipe for a delicious and wildly nutrient-rich nettle dish below…
Gaia’s Fresh Nettles + Ricotta Appetizer
12 cups nettle leaves
1 (15 oz) container whole milk ricotta cheese
2 Tbsp olive oil
1⁄4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
zest of 1-2 lemons
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
To prepare the nettles, place them in a large stock pot and cover them by half with filtered water. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook until tender, about 20
minutes. Remove from heat, drain well, then wring in a lint-free towel to remove excess moisture. Set aside to cool.
Once cool, place in a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Add the ricotta, olive oil, Parmesan and half the lemon zest. Pulse until thoroughly combined, then taste, adding the remaining lemon zest if desired. Add the cinnamon and nutmeg, pulse to combine and add more if desired.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
How To Serve:
In this recipe, we’ve used Gaia Farm nettles to create a simple filling for stuffed pasta or an accompaniment to simple roast chicken and vegetables. If you have access to them, this makes a delightful stuffing for squash blossoms. While the Parmesan and ricotta add richness, it’s the lemon zest, cinnamon and nutmeg that truly make this dish something special.