Stinging Nettle Gnudi with Sage Butter

Photo Credit: Langdon Cook

F.O.O.D. Focus on the Organic Difference
vol. 17 June 21, 2019

Recipe derived from Fat of the Land
Compiled by Celia Dolan for The Organic Food Guide and NOFA/Mass

Nettles are often associated with their vexing sting – the result of a “compound cocktail” consisting of various neurotransmitters and acids injected into the skin when a person encounters their prickly leaves and stems. But, fear not! Nettles protect themselves in such an irritating way because they house tremendous nutritional and medicinal value, and better yet, they lose their sting once cooked. Read on to learn more about this up-and-coming springtime favorite and experiment with a delicious gnocchi-esque recipe.

Nettle Nutrition Facts & Health Benefits

The prickles on these perennial plants, native to North America, Europe, Asia, and the northern regions of Africa, are called “trichomes”, which inject passersby with chemicals including histamine and formic acid (the same acid injected by many biting insects, like ants).  Even their uncomfortable sting, though, can be beneficial.  In a treatment called urtication, fresh nettles are slapped against arthritic limbs to encourage circulation and warm joints to alleviate pain.

Despite nettle’s initially cranky response to being touched, when consumed it regulates inflammatory pathways, which allow cells to protect the body from infections and tissue damage.  Nettles also support upper respiratory health, thereby preventing nasal congestion, sore throats, and other upper respiratory infections.  They contain protein (33.8%) and fiber (9.1%), and are a good source of energy and bioactive compounds, which promote good health and may prevent cancer, heart disease, and other ailments.  Nettles are rich in iron, fatty acids, potassium, carotenoids, mineral salts, calcium, manganese, sodium, chlorophyll, and vitamins A, C, and K.  “Great!” you exclaim.  “So, where do I buy these power-packed bundles?”  Well, dear reader, look no further than the next section of this post!

Obtaining Nettle

Nettles grow June through January, but are best harvested and consumed in the spring when they first grow because the leaves are smaller and more tender.  These native plants are often considered weeds, but subjecting them to the abuse of a weed wacker, scuffle hoe, or even herbicides (*gasp*) seems criminal when considering their health benefits and their valuable quality of contributing to native biodiversity. 

Nettles are most easily found through foraging since they grow abundantly, especially along roads, trails, waterways, and edges of fields, lawns, and farm rows.  However, they can be purchased at stores and farmer’s markets as well if you do not feel inclined to forage.  When shopping for nettle, look for bright green leaves with pale green undersides, and consider how the nettle was grown and harvested.  Reflecting on a food’s origin, cultural significance, environmental impacts, and whether it was cultivated sustainably, organically, and humanely are always important first steps to buying ingredients for any meal, including the ingredient nettle!


Cooking Tip: Wear gloves while preparing nettles to be cooked (unless you are anxious to practice urtication on your hands!).


2 cups organic ricotta

¾ cup grated organic parmesan

2 organic pasture-raised eggs

1 cup boiled and chopped wild nettles

½ cup organic flour, plus more for rolling

⅛ tsp nutmeg

Salt and pepper

Organic olive oil

Organic Butter

Fresh organic sage, chopped


1. Blanche stinging nettles in boiling water for a minute. Drain, shock with cold water, and squeeze out as much excess water as possible. Chop finely to fill a loose cup.

2. Drain ricotta and stir into a large bowl with parmesan, eggs, chopped nettles, a dash of nutmeg, and seasoning. Slowly add flour. The mixture should be damp and tacky without sticking to hands. If a half cup of flour isn’t enough to prevent sticking, keep adding a little more at a time until you can form a wet ball in your hand without it adhering.

3. Prepare a work surface by sprinkling it generously with flour.  Take a snowball-sized handful of cheese-nettle mixture and roll it in flour until thoroughly coated.  Roll out into a snake with a half-inch to inch diameter depending on preference. Cut into gnudi “pillows”. Dredge the cut ends in flour and shape each pillow as desired. Set aside on floured plate.

4. Boil gnudi in batches in salted water. They’re done when they float to the surface. Use a slotted spoon to remove from boiling water to a clean plate. Place cooked gnudi on wax paper on a cookie sheet. Boil a batch after each snowball’s worth of filling is shaped. While that batch is boiling (it only takes a couple minutes), move the previous boiled batch from plate to wax paper. Then continue with another handful.

5. Pan fry gnudi in olive oil and butter with chopped sage leaves until nicely browned. Leftover boiled gnudi can be refrigerated.


Dandelion Greens with Jerusalem Artichoke for the Microbiome

F.O.O.D. Focus on the Organic Difference

vol. 16 June 7, 2019

Profile and recipe from Ana Maria Moise, MS, CNS, LDN
Compiled by Christy Bassett for The Organic Food Guide and NOFA/Mass

Ana Maria Moise is a clinical nutritionist with expertise in functional foods as preventative and therapeutic medicine. She counsels patients on dietary strategies for treating gastrointestinal disorders, eating disorders, metabolic disorders, heart disease, autoimmune conditions, and other chronic illnesses.

She is the author of The Gut Microbiome: Exploring the Connection between Microbes, Diet, and Health, published in 2017. She is committed to translating current medical research, making it more accessible to the general public. She leads workshops on nutrition and gastrointestinal health, plant-based diets, and a mindful eating approach to weight management.

She practices at 52 Center Street in Northampton, MA and 306 High Street in Greenfield, MA. 

Find more information at or register to attend her NOFA/Mass event “Cultivate a Healthy Microbiome” on June 13, 2019.

What is your interest/career in the food system?

Practicing nutrition in a clinical setting provides a wonderful opportunity to integrate knowledge of local nutrient-dense foods. The modern diet is often devoid of biodiversity. Incorporating more complex plant foods in the diet improves health and promotes longevity. My fascination with local and specifically indigenous plant foods stems from the understanding that whole plants promote gut health and, in turn, helps prevent disease. Increasing our diversity of whole plant foods, as we see in more traditional diets, supports the diversity of microbes living within the gut. These gut microbes are a key component to managing inflammation in the body and reducing the risk of chronic disease. 

Why do you love local, organic food?

When I moved to Western Massachusetts, I quickly developed an interest in indigenous cultures and medical anthropology. As I learned about chronic diseases typically seen only in modern Western cultures, I became interested in the role of diet and lifestyle in the development of these so called “diseases of civilization”. Traditional cultures that subsist on locally grown foods tend to have much lower rates of metabolic diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes, autoimmune disorders, heart disease, cancer as well as neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimers and Parkinson’s. Research points to the importance of local plant foods within these traditional diets because they contain complex carbohydrates that serve as prebiotics – foods that feed our probiotic microbes. The modern Western diet is lacking in diversity of complex plant foods and researchers believe this is starving gut microbes, lowering their diversity, and thus promoting a disease-state within the body. Integrating local produce and increasing the variety of local plants in one’s diet is a wonderful way to increase prebiotics and improve gut health.  

Are there any native local foods that you recommend for promoting gut health?

Prebiotics are found in a variety of whole plant foods including beans, legumes, onion, garlic, dandelion greens, as well as tubers like jicama and Jerusalem artichoke. Tubers are underground vegetables that are still seen as stables in modern-day hunter-gatherer diets. The Jerusalem artichoke, or Sunchoke, is a native North American tuber and was part of the indigenous diet. 

The Jerusalem artichoke, or Sunchoke, is a native North American tuber and was part of the indigenous diet.

Dandelion greens with Jerusalem Artichoke for the Microbiome


  • 2 cups organic dandelion greens
  • 1 medium organic Jerusalem artichoke
  • 1 medium organic radish
  • 1 Tbs chopped organic green onion
  • 1 Tbs chopped organic green garlic
  • ¼ cup organic bean sprouts
  • Salad dressing of choice


Rinse and chop all vegetables.  Toss and enjoy!

Lemony Asparagus and Spring Pea Salad with Roasted Almonds

Photo credit: Sam Jones/Quinn Brein

F.O.O.D. Focus on the Organic Difference

vol. 15 May 31, 2019

Recipe derived from The Old Farmer’s Almanac

Compiled by Celia Dolan for The Organic Food Guide and NOFA/Mass

Spring has finally arrived and our favorite local crops are back in season!  Asparagus shoots are awakening, rising up from the soil, and making an appearance at farm stands and farmer’s markets.  Like many consumers in New England, we are excited to snatch up these power-packed veggies and boil, grill, sauté, steam, or roast them – or even eat them raw.  As asparagus becomes a seasonal staple on many people’s dining room tables this spring, we thought we’d share some nutritional information, benefits of eating local, organic asparagus, and fun facts about this spring-time treasure.

Why Local and Organic?

Locally and organically grown asparagus, like other sustainably produced foods, offer environmental, economic, social, and health advantages.  According to a 2015 study, over 90% of American asparagus is imported, and asparagus farmers are experiencing the negative effects of the declining demand for American-grown asparagus.  By purchasing American-grown asparagus, especially locally grown varieties in New England, consumers support their local farmers and economy, and protect farmland and greenspace in their area.  Local veggies also have lower emissions, thereby reducing environmental contamination and impacts of climate change.

Organic produce further protects the environment and mitigates climate change; it is estimated that organic agriculture can bind 1,000 pounds of carbon per acre, rather than releasing carbon into the atmosphere as is common on conventional farms.  Since organically grown vegetables have fewer inputs, like pesticides and chemical fertilizers, they promote soil, water, and pollinator health, as well as the health of farm workers and consumers.  Asparagus that is organically grown is higher in nutrients and antioxidants, making local, organic asparagus even richer in the nutritional benefits (explored next)!

Nutrition Facts & Health Benefits

Asparagus is low in saturated fats, cholesterol, and sodium while being high in protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.  These qualities provide asparagus-eaters with many health benefits!  Read on to find out more.


A half cup of asparagus contains:

  • 18% RDI Vitamin A
  • 34% RDI Folate (i.e. Vitamin B9)
  • 12% RDI Vitamin C
  • 7% RDI Vitamin E
  • 57% RDI Vitamin K
  • Thiamin (i.e. Vitamin B1)
  • Riboflavin (i.e. Vitamin B2)
  • Niacin (i.e. Vitamin B3)
  • Pantothenic acid (i.e. Vitamin B5)
  • Vitamin B6

All of these vitamins play a role in boosting health and well-being.  For example, vitamin A promotes eye health and can even reduce risk of acne.  Folate is important for a healthy pregnancy, cell growth, and DNA formation.  Vitamin C reduces blood pressure and risk for heart disease.  Vitamin K – the vitamin with the highest RDI in a half cup of asparagus – assists in blood clotting and bone health.


In addition to a bounty of vitamins, asparagus also harbors minerals that further contribute to a healthy diet, including:

  • Potassium
  • Phosphorus
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Manganese

Like vitamins, minerals bolster health.  Potassium offers relief from strokes, kidney disorders, and anxiety, while improving metabolism, strength, and the nervous system.  Phosphorus aids in the formation of strong bones and teeth; calcium also aids in this effort and allows for proper functioning of the heart, nerves, and muscles.  Iron eliminates fatigue and strengthens the immune system. 


Asparagus contains powerful nutrients, as well, including zinc and selenium.  Zinc helps heal wounds and promotes healthy growth in children.  Selenium is important for thyroid health and may reduce asthma symptoms.

Each of these vitamins, minerals, and nutrients combine to create a powerful array of benefits for asparagus fans.  The high level of antioxidants in asparagus protect cells against oxidative stress, which contribute to chronic inflammation and development of diseases including cancer.  The fiber contained in asparagus reduces heart disease and risk of diabetes, particularly Type-2 diabetes.  Asparagus strengthens the immune system and greatly improves gut health by feeding friendly bacteria – Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus.  It can even lower risk of depression, boost energy levels, and improve your complexion and hair health.  Clearly, asparagus is not only yummy but also provides a host of benefits to people of all ages!

Now that you’re an asparagus expert, enjoy making the following recipe – or concoct your own dish with this versatile veggie that can be used in salads, stir-fries, omelets, frittatas, side dishes, pasta dishes, and more!


Yields: 6 servings

Preparation Time: Approximately 30 minutes

Shopping Tip: Purchase asparagus with firm stems and closed tips


5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1/4 cup shallots, minced

1/3 cup whole almonds

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 pound asparagus, washed and tough bottom ends trimmed and discarded

3/4 cup shelled fresh peas

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

3 sprigs fresh mint, leaves removed and saved

Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper

Garnish: 4 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler


In a medium skillet, warm 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add shallots and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Scrape shallots and oil from pan into a small bowl and set aside. Add remaining 3 tablespoons of oil to same pan over medium heat. Once oil is shimmering, add almonds and toast 6 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently until lightly browned. Add almonds to shallot mixture. Stir in lemon juice and set aside.

Prepare an ice-water bath and set aside. In a large saucepan, bring 4 cups salted water to a boil. Add asparagus and return water to a boil; cook 5 minutes. Remove asparagus with tongs (reserving water in pan) and place in ice-water bath. Return reserved water to a boil and blanch peas 3 minutes or until soft. Drain in a colander and refresh under cold running water. Add peas to almond mixture. Drain asparagus in colander and pat dry with a paper towel.

Arrange asparagus spears on serving platter with tips all facing the same direction. Add lemon zest and mint leaves to almond and pea mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Liberally spoon over asparagus and garnish with cheese shavings.