I Heart Hemp – A Testimony And A Recipe

October 7th, 2010 - filed under: The Food » Food and Health


I first got into hemp when I was pregnant and looking to add more, and more varied, sources of protein to my diet. I was skeptical at first (I mean I’m crunchy, but c’mon!), but I had to admit that the nutrient profile of this little plant was impressive. So with caution and curiosity I waded into the world of hemp . . . and found that the more I tasted, the more I wanted! And the more I learned, the more I loved! Until very soon I was a convert into the cult of Cannabis. Now I’m an evangelical hemp hound.

I don’t want to reinforce a protein myth, but it’s important to note that hemp foods are considered a ‘complete’ protein. Less common in plants than in animal products, ‘complete’ protein sources are those that include all 8 essential amino acids. Amino acids are, of course, the building blocks of proteins, and our body can make all but 8 of them. These 8 must be secured dietarily.


So hemp is a complete protein which makes things easy, especially when you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or an athlete. But hemp is also a source of essential fatty acids, particularly the elusive omega-3s. Also rare in the herbivorous world, these important fats must be sourced externally. My article on EFAs provides a much more thorough discussion, but suffice it to say that EFAs are key components of healthy eating, and hemp’s got ‘em!

In addition to these fundamental-yet-hard-to-find macronutrients, hemp also boasts a beautiful spread of major micronutrients. Whole hemp seeds provide many minerals, such as calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganeses, phosphorous, and zinc. They also include vitamins B1, B2, and E, and the tocopheral suite of antioxidants. And bonus: hemp is naturally gluten-free!

But hemp isn’t just healthy – it’s also a bit of a wondercrop. It grows in a wide range of soils and climates. It thrives in close quarters, which maximizes spacial efficiency. This also means that herbicides are rarely used (no room for weeds to take root), and pesticides are uncommon because of the plant’s natural defenses. Acre for acre, hemp can yield up to four times the usable fibers of a forest. Hemp can also effectively replace cotton, a crop which accounts for up to 50% of the pesticide use worlwide. And the fiber structure makes processing a lot less energy and chemical intensive. Basically, it’s an environmentalist’s dream.

So now that I’ve extolled the virtues of hemp, I bet you’re wondering how the heck you eat it! Luckily, you have a lot of options. First there’s plain ol’ hemp hearts, which is a fancy way of saying hulled hemp seeds. These are the ‘whole food’, comprised of 35% protein, 47% healthy fats, and only 12% carbohydrates. Hemp hearts are soft and a bit chewy, with an almost sweet, almost nutty flavor. Personally I put them in just about everything: served over salads, dropped into dips, sprinkled on soups, blended into smoothies, stirred into nut butters or thrown into nut butter & jelly sammiches – and on and on. These are very versatile items, though to be truthful, I’ve been known to snack on them by the straight spoonful!

Hemp can be found in a number of other incarnations as well. From the raw, minimally processed protein powder that I often enjoy in my smoothies (shown above), to cold-pressed omega-rich oils used in dressings, dips, and marinades, to thickly blended hemp butter and delicious creamy hemp milk, to novelty products like hemp ice cream (it’s so silky!)

Hemp butter by Wilderness Poets. They’re awesome, you should check them out!

Lately I’ve been moving from using hemp as a garnish or add-in, to featuring it front and center. And let me tell you, for a foodie geek like me, a new ingredient to fawn over can be pretty damn exciting. I’ve been revisiting all the classics, incorporating this new virtuoso. Here’s one of my favorite incarnations:

Limey Hemp Hummus

2 cups chickpeas, canned or home cooked, drained and rinsed
2 tall tablespoons hemp butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
the juice from one lime
water to thin, as needed
s+p, to taste

Combine all ingredients in the food processor and blend until smooth. Eat!

So my dears, have I piqued your palates? Any hemp experiments in your futures?

  • Squiggle

    I haven’t noticed hemp available anywhere here in the UK in edible form, although I must admit I haven’t really been looking. I’ll definitely keep an eye out now! When looking for hemp to grow in the garden what should one search for as, being part of the cannabis family, I imagine it could get troublesome!

    B x

  • Elizabeth

    I’ve always been a bit wary about eating hemp because I didn’t know much about it (aside from it’s awesome ability to be made into so many non-edible things) and how it tastes. But now you’ve inspired me to add some form of it to my diet. Thanks!

  • Melissa L.

    Oh my! I am in food HEAVEN right now with your post on hemp and the pumpkin recipes. I had a pumpkin smoothie today and it was sooo good! My little man loved it too.
    Hemp seeds…it is weird to say this but I remember eating those as a kid and they were a real treat. Let’s just say that my parents enjoyed their Cannabis…(I was a 70′s baby. Weeds, beads and seeds ;-) )
    I would love to try the hemp spread. And your hummus recipe looks like a winner. I am moving to eating more raw every day and these recipes really help. Thank you!

  • http://flightsofthevalkyrie.blogspot.com/ Valerie

    Ooooh, I absolutely have to search out hemp & add it to my diet! Thanks for the info!

  • saundra

    i don’t knowif they sell hemp here but it might be interesting i knowyou can get hemp string and lotion but other thanthat im not sure… of course if i do find it and getto make something i can tell everyone that they ate cannabis that would be hilarious!

  • saundra

    p.s. that’s a very pretty picture of the hemp plant

  • http://kpapoulias.blogspot.com/ Kathryn

    i love hemp! i wrote a nine page research essay on it two years ago for the united nations usa high school essay contest on sustainability :)

  • Kelly H.

    I’ve dabbled (daPPled??) in hemp milk and other hemp products and I am definitely a fan! Whilst at VegFest, I picked up hemp seed butter (LOVE! Lots of Omegas!!) and some shelled hemp seeds from Manitoba Harvest. Great company and people!

  • Britt

    I HEART HEMP!!! Hooray for Hemp!!! Hemp for Victory!!! HOORAY!!! ~8 )> Ohmygosh, this plant is seriously God’s gift to all, for everything!!! Like you, I was looking for alternative proteins to add to my diet whilst pregnant, and was super thrilled to discover that one of our health food stores carried an assortment of hemp products, ie protein/fiber powder, seeds, milk, etc. Green smoothie with hemp every morning, man, that’s the secret to LIFE, man!!! ; )> Lovin’ you more and more, Sayward…! Rock it!

  • Meghan

    My husband has random drug tests for work and was wondering if eating hemp would cause him to fail them.

  • Shango

    Has anyone tried to sprout hemp seeds? It would seem to me that working with the unsprouted seed would be negative ezymatically speaking. I am just assuming that until the seed is sprouted it is enzyme dormant and those vital aminos shouldn’t be available to us during digestion.

  • MathTutor

    He won’t fail his drug test, the hemp we can eat (the legal kind) doesn’t have tCh in it. So you are all good!

  • MathTutor

    I meant tHC :)
    and a little more info on it, as long as it doesn’t flower it is not considered mature aka good for smoking. hemp cannot be grown in the US though so all hemp products are imported and meet a zero tolerance policy. no tHC whatsoever.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com Sayward

    @ Squiggle – Hmm, I have no idea about what to look for as far as growing it at home! It’s totally illegal here in the US – all our hemp products are imported from Canada. But I know the for-food-and-fiber plants are a totally different species than the for-fun plants, so I think they do look different as well. Are you sure that it’s even legal to grow in the UK?

    @ Melissa L. – Yay, glad you had an awesome pumpkin smoothie!

    @ Kathryn – Haha, AWESOME, I wonder what they thought of that!

    @ Britt – “Green smoothie with hemp every morning, man, that’s the secret to LIFE, man!!! ” = YESSSSS!!!

    @ Meghan – Hmm, a little research and I’m getting mixed answers, but this has me leaning towards maybe not risking it?

    @ Shango – Good point! I buy the seeds hulled so I don’t think they’ll sprout, but I’ll certainly try it. It should be noted, though, that they don’t contain any phytic acid so there’s no need to sprout them from concerns over antinutrients.

    @ MathTutor – Do you have a definitive source for your info? It seems to me that you’re right – it would have to be! – but I can’t find a clear answer.

  • DragonTat2

    Hemp is a cousin to cannabis. They look pretty much alike. Unlike medicinal cannabis, hemp has no THC.

    No slam to Manitoba Harvest, but I really love Living Harvest’s hemp oil. It is so delicious, I could drink it out of the bottle!

  • http://hidinginpinkcamo.com/ Deven

    Thank you! I was just making a joke with my partner that everything in our life is going nuts… almonds to be exact and that I really wanted an alternative to soy that wasn’t just almonds. This sounds like a great addition to the menu. I’ll be linking to this entry for my readers. =)

  • Kelly H.

    DragonTat2: Thank you for plugging them as well! They’re wonderful…and even more local to those of us in the NW. Yummy ice cream!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com Sayward

    @ Deven – Just a heads up, I adore everything hemp *except* I cannot stand homemade hemp milk (and yogurt was even worse). I don’t know what it is but I couldn’t stomach it. So hemp is great for *almost* everything but if you’re making your own maybe stick to almonds for the milk. Just my fair warning! =D

  • http://hidinginpinkcamo.com/ Deven

    Thanks for the heads up! I’ll attempt a small batch of the milk (just because you never know) and see how it is. Somehow though, I love the almond milk so much, I can’t imagine switching. :)

  • http://www.sarathomas.etsy.com sara thomas

    just received my hemp oil (had to order it because i live in the twilight zone!) & it is wonderful! what a great flavor! i am using it to make dinner
    (homemade pita chips & baba ganoush).

    question tho- is there complete protein found in hemp oil as well? i know nutritional yeast flakes are also a c.p. do you know of any other foods that are complete proteins?

    thanks for introducing me to something great!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com Sayward

    @ sara thomas – Sorry for this late response, yeesh. Anyways, there’s no protein in the hemp oil, it’s just pure 100% oil. But there are lots of plant foods that are complete proteins! Oats, buckwheat, quinoa, soy, spirulina, chlorella, chia . . . I know there’s more I’m forgetting.

  • http://www.sarathomas.etsy.com sara thomas

    hi sayward!
    no worries! you are tres busy lady =) i took some time to look up a few & nutritional yeast & amaranth were there. i had read oats weren’t quite complete, like 3% shy of being a CP is what i ready anyway. thanks so much for all of your wonderful information. it has really made such a difference in my and my family’s life!

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  • Kory Rigler

    Finally got around to trying the hemp hummus… amazing! I like using hemp protein and hemp oil but had a hard time with hemp milk and hemp butter, but the hemp butter in hummus is awesome! Want to try the seed next…

  • Scandifoodie

    Unfortunately hemp seeds are not widely available here in Australia. I think Australia is one of the only countries where it’s legal to sell hemp seeds for “animal consumption only”!! I know, pretty backwards, hey. Lets hope Australia will enter the 21st century sometime soon.