Its here, its legal, its hemp seed. And no, it doesnt get you high. A quarter kilo (half pound) of hemp seed sells for about $10 and the small white kernels pack about as big a psychedelic punch as a wad of Kleenex. But even a small amount has a ton of nutrition and that is why we will probably be hearing a lot more about hemp-based food products.
Growing hemp for commercial use is legal in much of Canada. Manitoba, in particular, has a particularly large operation with more than 25,000 acres under cultivation. This non-halucinogenic variety of the hemp plant has a lot of uses. The fibers can be used for paper, textiles and even building materials. Hemp seed oil can use used like many vegetable based oil seeds (such as linseed and cotton) to make paint and industrial products
In fact boosters of hemp claim it is so useful, they make it sound like the vegetable equivalent of the shmoos. These were lovable little creatures in the cartoon Lil Abner. A shmoo gave milk, laid eggs, tasted like chicken and had eyes that made fine suspender buttons.
As foods, hemp seed and hemp seed oil do seem to offer quite a lot. The oil has a low burning point so it is not recommended for frying or cooking. It is dark green but isnt as pungent or has as thick a mouth-feel as many olive oils. Hemp seed oil is very high in fatty acids and polyunsaturated fats. Its very nutty with just the faintest whiff reminiscent of marijuana. It works well in salad dressings, baking and home-made mayonnaise.
Hemp seeds are also high in amino acids and protein. As a food they are often compared with soy beans but hemp seeds are much easier to digest. Without their hulls, they look like pudgy sesame seeds. They have a slightly mushy consistency with a taste similar to sunflower seeds. When toasted,weve found they lose a little of their raw character and become much nuttier. They are a tasty substitute for pine nuts or walnuts in pasta sauces such as pesto and should be very good sprinkled over blander foods like baked potatoes or rice. I think theyd be super in sushi!
The list of foods that include hemp seeds is getting longer: flour, beer, cheese, hemp milk, hemp ice cream, butters, flour and tofu-style hemp burgers. Many of these are hard to find. Some can be ordered only from from internet purveyors. The oil and seeds are sold at some health food stores and also at Les douceurs du marché in the Atwater market (939-3902).