I promise, there is nothing illegal going on in my kitchen. Those little seeds were straight from Whole Foods, not grown in the United States. Hemp seed comes from the Cannabis sativa plant, the same plant whose fibrous stems are used to make rope and whose leaves are also known as marijuana. Regardless of the dubious effects of its leaves, when it comes to its seeds, hemp offers up an impressive resume.
The seeds have a high protein content and contain all nine of the essential amino acids human bodies can’t produce on their own, making them popular among vegetarians and vegans. Easily digestible because of the lack of phytic acid, hemp is rich in polyunsaturated essential fatty acids, with a 3:1 ratio of Omega-6s and Omega-3s. Studies have shown that a lower ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 helps to reduce the risk of many chronic diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease.
I tried the toasted hemp seeds I found at Whole Foods and found a mildly nutty little seed that added an impressive crunch to my salads. Although I enjoyed the sideways glances from my parents when I informed them that I was making a hemp salad, I didn’t enjoy them enough to add them to my regular grocery rotation.
And now the question I really wanted answered: what is the difference between the hemp in my yoga guru’s granola and the marijuana that’s so controversial?
Apparently, although they come from the same Cannabis sativa plant, there are different varieties of Cannabis plants. THC, Tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive component of the Cannabis; while marijuana comes from the tops and leaves of high-THC varieties, “Industrial” hemp comes from low-THC strains of the plant. Commercial hemp seeds contain negligible amounts of THC, so no; the following recipe will not lead to any kind of high except the natural exhilaration of a healthy meal.
Shelled hemp seeds are an interesting way to add fiber, chlorophyll, vitamins, and protein to smoothies, yogurt, veggie burgers, or salads. If you’re feeling particularly DIY-esque, you could make your own hemp milk from one of the recipes that abound online. As for me, I tossed my toasted hemp seeds into a simple bean and quinoa salad, excellent over greens.
Simple Hemp Salad
2 cups cooked quinoa
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 scallion, finely chopped
½ yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, grated
¼ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp ground cumin
juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons hemp seeds, toasted or hulled
In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients and top with hemp seeds. Serve on a bed of spring mix lettuce.