Hemp. What is it?
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines hemp as:
A tall widely cultivated Asian herb (Cannabis sativa of the family Cannabaceae, the hemp family) that has a tough bast fiber used especially for cordage
Which doesn’t really tell us much, especially as we are most interested in eating it.
The Urban Dictionary gives a more useful (and honest) answer:
It can be used for many things, including being woven into jewelry, sails, paper, clothing, rope, and more. A potential substitute for fossil fuels that is renewable. Is grown quickly and takes few chemicals to grow or turn into paper, so it is a far better source for paper than trees. Also, the seeds contain more protein than any other natural non-meat food. Basically, an all purpose plant that is illegal because the US government is racist.
The last line relates to the fact that the ‘war on drugs’ has often seen hemp labeled alongside its cousin marijuana, despite lacking any of its, errrrmm, pain reducing qualities. (Click here to learn everything you could possibly want to know about the history of hemp)
To state clearly – other than a genealogy (and the same iconic leaf shape) hemp and cannabis share very little.
With that nicely cleared up, just why should we eat its seeds?
As the second definition mentions, the protein found in hemp seeds is fantastic, as this recent article on hemp seeds in the Washington Post goes to great length to prove to you.
It is hard to call the piece anything less than ‘’glowing,’ summing up as it does all that is wonderful about the seeds, and how they can be added to your favourite recipes.
More than just a healthy, tasty ingredient (it has a sweet nuttyness that is subtle and delicious), in its powdered form it is a viable replacement for whey protein for those unable or unwilling to eat dairy.
I am one of the former, and hemp protein powder features prominently in my post cycling routine. I often simply mix 2 tablespoons of the stuff with fruit juice, which provides plenty of protein to help recovery, and reduce any muscle soreness.
So what is hemp? A tasty and remarkably versatile food, and a great way to increase protein intake for those who need to.
Eat the stuff, it is lovely, and no, it is not a drug.