Image source: Manitoba Harvest
While the US is still the only developed nation where growing hemp is illegal, you can buy products manufactured with hemp here and this week I tried out some products by Manitoba Harvest, based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I also served them up to my family for the official taste test - below are the results as well as a few 'recipe' ideas.
Hemp is a great source of complete proteins for vegetarians and non-vegetarians, as well as offers Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids. Its grown with no pesticides and can be used for clothing, soaps, food, rope, shoes, wallets, you name it. In case you're wondering, Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods were recently analyzed by the US military, as were many other hemp foods and cosmetics, and found to not contain any amount of Tetra Hydrocannabinol(THC). The findings were published in the July/August 2008 issue of Journal of Analytical Toxicology.The Hemp Taste Test
I tried the Chocolate Hemp Protein, which contains all 10 essential amino acids, in my cereal first by dumping a little in and not tasting it so I dumped some more in and this was too much - gave a very chalky taste to the cereal. I've since eaten it by dumping a little in and I get the benefits of hemp protein while still enjoying my Trader Joe's O's. My parents said they have blended the hemp protein in chocolate banana smoothies and in brownies (not those kind of brownies) and that its great.
As for the Hemp Nut Butter, it took a second to get over the color when I first opened the jar. When you think butter you think yellow, cream, or even brown like peanut butter. Hemp nut butter is none of the above - its green! It also has little dots from the hemp seeds. But, I tried it on toast and bagels and it was the same as putting peanut butter on a bagel. It has a very nutty flavor and you almost feel like you're getting some green leafy vegetables in the mix. Like many vegetarian foods, if you get past the idea of what something is "supposed" to taste like, the hemp nut butter is fine.
If you like spooning peanut butter straight out of the jar, then you will like hemp seed butter. Plus, you don't have to worry about the possible concerns over palm oil harvest and tropical forest destruction, because there is no palm oil in hemp nut butter.
The organic, non-GMO Hemp Seed Oil, home to 2500mgs of Omega 3's per serving, can be used in salads and even in drinks (though I didn't try it in any drinks). Its a lot like vegetable oil or an oil of that consistency but with the hemp flavor. It suggested to take 1-2 tablespoonfuls daily, so I tried that. I don't recommend it for the faint of heart, as the first thing I thought when I did it was "Don't do that." Unless you like drinking olive oil by the spoonful, I suggest you use it in food the same way you would olive oil. You can also cook with it under 350° F (176° C).
The Benefits of Hemp
Hemp has long been praised for its wide variety of uses and small eco-footprint. Edible hemp is high in Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, which is a great alternative for vegetarians and vegans who can't get these Omega's from eating fish. Hemp is also a great source of complete protein, which is crucial for vegetarians and vegans. Most sources of protein don't contain enough of each of the 9 amino acids necessary for a complete protein, but hemp has all nine amino acids at high enough levels. In fact, the amino acids in hemp are similar to those found in our bloodstream so they are easily acquired and digested.
Hemp is never genetically modified, unlike soy, and it also requires no herbicides or pesticides to grow. Hemp protein powder can also be used in baking at a ratio of 25% hemp to 75% flour which is good for people concerned about a low-carb diet and the powder is also gluten-free. It is a very fast-growing plant, thus making it a sustainable source of paper-products, and uses less water during its growth as compared with cotton.
The Growth of Hemp
The owners of Manitoba Harvest Hemp were among the folks who helped re-legalize the growth of hemp in Canada in 1998. North Dakota and Vermont have very strict regulations which potentially would allow farmers to grow hemp but the programs have yet to get off the ground. The DEA threatens to crack down on these programs so farmers are afraid they will get their licenses revoked if they start to plant hemp. North Dakota farmers question why Canadian farmers are allowed to grow and manufacture hemp fiber and seed products and then export them to the US, while US farmers are denied the same advantages. Hmmm. Scientists have clearly shown that hemp and marijuana are two distinct plants (the DEA disagrees) and thus growing industrial hemp "has absolutely no use as a recreational drug."
Improved manufacturing, washing and decontamination habits have led to much lower and in some cases no concentrations of THC in commercially manufactured hemp products. When the Hemp Industries Association won its lawsuit against the DEA in 2004, stating that the DEA regulations can't ban hemp food products, Manitoba Harvest Hemp saw its sales grow by 1000%. The Manitoba Harvest facility is a 20,000 square foot kosher and certified organic manufacturing facility.
If you check out their website, Manitoba Harvest has a neat little slideshow on the hemp fields from growth to harvest as well as nutrition information and almost 100 recipes - including breads, desserts, even cole slaw. Each of the hemp food items can be ordered from your local health food store as well as from their website.
:ND Licensed Hemp Farmers File Appeal::Manitoba Harvest
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