Last week we dived into herbs, so it would be only appropriate to explore another food family, right?
Well, while doing my research I was so intrigued by another member of the herb family, that I just had to post it this week. It is a very controversial and very famous herb, but its many (many!) uses (except the one) tend not to be so well known. Unfortunately, because it seems to be another wonder plant!
This loved and hated plant is used as food, its seeds can be processed into oil, butter, milk and flour, it can be used to make a variety of materials, such as rope, paper, building materials and fabric (it was actually used in the original Levi’s jeans, but had to be abandoned due to lack of supply) and it is also used to make fuel, being one of the most efficient plants for bio-fuel as an alternative to gasoline.
Have you guessed it? We are talking about:
- Cannabis sativa L.
- A tall woody plant growing on multi-cellular stalks with very distinct leaves;
- Good to know: often confused with the marijuana plant since they both belong to the Cannabis family and also look very alike. Industrial hemp grown for food, materials and fuel contains virtually no THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient responsible for the “high” from smoking marijuana). Hemp oil, milk, butter and flower are all produced from hemp seeds;
- Buying & Storing: industrial hemp can be grown in Canada, as well as Europe, but is still banned in the USA. Fortunately its food products like hemp seeds, hemp seed oil, butter and milk are available in stores world wide. Always buy cold pressed hemp seed oil. Store hemp seeds and hemp seed oil in a dark and cool place, and the butter and milk in the fridge;
- A good source of:
- Protein: with 20% protein content hemp seeds have all 20 amino acids, including 9 essential amino acids (EAAs) making them a complete protein food, rarely found among plants, and thus a blessing for vegetarians and vegans. These proteins are considered highly digestible and don’t contain phytic acid (that anti-nutrient that prevents us from absorbing minerals);
- Essential fatty acids: nature’s highest plant source of EFAs, containing more than flax or any other nut or seed oil (except perhaps chia seed). Furthermore it contains the perfect balance 3:1 of Omega-6 linolenic acid and Omega-3 linolenic acid, providing for cardiovascular health and strengthening of the immune system;
- Phytonutrients: such as phytosterols and carotenes (act as antioxidants), which help protect your immunity, bloodstream, tissues, cells, skin and organs;
- VITAMINS: excellent source of vitamin E complex;
- MINERALS: magnesium, zinc, iron, and potassium;
- Actions: antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, relieves digestive disorders, neuralgia, insomnia, depression, migraines, promotes healthy menstruation, treats glaucoma, antiemetic, aids breathing, all-over-health-promoting;
- Culinary uses: seeds can be used sprinkled on salads, desserts, soups, in a tahini-like paste, snacks, grain dishes, with vegetables; hemp seed oil is used without heating (because it destroys its nutrients) in salad dressings, sauces, dips, spreads; both, as well as hemp seed milk can be used in smoothies;
- Interesting: hemp is one of the earliest domesticated plants known, it has been cultivated by many civilizations for over 12.000 years. According to Wikipedia it is supposed to be one of the faster growing biomasses known, producing up to 25 tons of dry matter per hectare per year. It is claimed to require only few pesticides and no herbicides to grow, and it gives a permanent removal of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from Earth’s atmosphere. The world leading producer of hemp is China.
STRAWBERRY BANANA HEMP SEED SMOOTHIE (this recipe and more here):
3 cups strawberries
1 cup coconut water
2 tablespoons hemp seeds
Ice as needed
Blend all ingredients. Enjoy!
Wow I am amazed yet again! I have been using hemp seeds and really like them in salads and sprinkled on soups, but keep forgetting to buy a new pack, since I ran out a feew weeks ago already. Guess what? I’m headed to the store right now! 🙂
p.s.: The words in blue contain a link to the Glossary, where you can check the meaning of some terms used in the post.
– The Vegetarian Cook’s Bible: Pat Crocker,