Hemp: The superfood every Hoosier needs to eat 

The onetime illegal substance is maybe the greatest superfood

click to enlarge Hemp seeds, oil, flour, and leaves. So many options. - THINKSTOCK
  • Hemp seeds, oil, flour, and leaves. So many options.
  • Thinkstock
Yes, you could boil some seeds and stems with some Country Crock until it turns green and then use that butter to bake your favorite brownies. Sure, these magic brownies may make music sound better and make Doug Benson's stand-up routine a little more relevant to your life. But, outside of the fact that these tasty morsels aren't necessarily legal (for God knows what reason), it should come as no surprise that they're not very good for you either.

Enter hemp, the legal and healthy cousin to your favorite canibinoid — you know, dank kush. You've heard of hemp, you may have even heard the term utilized interchangeably with marijuana. However, hemp and marijuana are about as similar as a Chihuahua and a Great Dane. According to a report on Fox News Health, "Hemp is a low THC variety of the plant Cannabis sativa, which is also known as marijuana. While marijuana is psychoactive and imparts a high, hemp does not do so. You cannot get high using hemp in any manner, regardless of the quantity." Sorry.

While hemp may not lead to as many Totino's pizza rolls, the uses and benefits (for our world, industries, and human health) are incredible and it is high time you start using hemp in your daily life. While I could write thousands of words on the benefits of hemp and its superiority in the fields of textiles, plastics, paper products, medicines, construction, and the list goes on; or about how, due to antiquated laws, we are only recently able to grow hemp in Indiana and even then it's only in small doses by a group at Purdue Univeristy. But me, being the food editor and all, I plan on sharing just how amazing this plant is for you and a few places around Indy where you can get a taste of hemp.

click to enlarge Hemp plants ready for harvest
  • Hemp plants ready for harvest

One of my favorite things I've heard about hemp deals with Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. It is said that Buddha survived six years of asceticism by ingesting nothing more than one hemp seed a day — I would've died, I can barely go four hours without a burrito. While this may not be a necessarily true story (it may be, who am I to question Buddha?) it does hold a grain of truth; hemp holds some incredible nutritional values. Hemp's nutritional aspects are astonishing. The most common way to ingest the plant is through its seeds which have a light, nutty flavor. While, unlike Buddha, you may need more than one a day, a small amount of these tossed into your favorite oatmeal or even in a brownie batter mix will do so much for you.

For one, hemps seeds are incredibly high in protein, containing all of the essential amino acids, which makes it a complete protein source. If you were to simply drop three tablespoons of hemp seeds into your meal that would add 10 grams of protein. Not only would it add protein, but according to Livestrong.com hemp seeds, "Reduce inflammation, and getting more in your diet may reduce your risk of heart disease. They may also help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in concentrated amounts in the brain, and may play an important role in helping memory and cognition. So, start the day with a little heart and mind boost by adding hemp seeds to your hot cereal or yogurt." "Bonus: Each ounce [of hemp seeds] contains three-quarters of the daily recommended Vitamin E and nearly a third of the recommended zinc to help boost your immune system," according to a study on superfood seeds by Time magazine.

One thing to keep in mind if you're purchasing hemp seeds to put in your food, make sure that it comes in an opaque package and that you can't see the seeds at all. If you can see the seeds then they are continually being exposed to light which will cause the omega fatty acids to break down, leading to a rancid flavor.

Another option for getting that hemp goodness in your food is by using hemp seed oil. It is a perfect and healthier alternative oil to use in place of olive oil if you're making a homemade salad dressing. It also tastes great mixed into your air-popped popcorn, and it's way better for you than the Orville Redenbacher's pour over butter. Make sure not to cook with that hemp oil though, it definitely should be used as a finishing oil. If you heat it too much, just like if too much light gets to it, the omega fatty acids will break down and not only void the oil of its nutritional value, you'll also be voiding the oil of its delicious natural flavor.

Sometimes you don't feel like cooking or you're the type of person that finds a way to burn mac and cheese (there are directions on the box!); the good news is there are plenty of restaurants around Indy that serve up tasty hemp-inspired dishes. Two of my favorites are the beloved Café Patachou, which offers raw hemp seeds to add to any of their dishes (I personally add some in the center of my Full-Bellied Pig), or you can get the Hippie Porridge from The Garden Table.

click to enlarge Hemp snacks for everyone at Hemp Happy Hour, held March 7 at Fountain Square Brewery - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Hemp snacks for everyone at Hemp Happy Hour, held March 7 at Fountain Square Brewery
  • Submitted Photo

There are also Indiana-based hemp companies, but Jamie Petty, the founder of the Indiana Hemp Industries Association (INHIA), points out a major issue they face at the present time. "Foods Alive is an established, family-owned business who provides wonderful hemp products, and is on the shelf nationally, as well as in Indiana. Yet, they are forced to import their hemp from Canada. Real Hemp is also marketing hemp foods, all of which must be imported." Hemp must be imported due to the fact that our "always ahead of the curve" government has allowed two acres of hemp to be grown by Purdue researchers. To give you an idea of how laughable this is, Kentucky (you know, the state that still has dozens of dry counties) now has 4,600 acres grown by farmers and producers. Kentucky isn't the only place ahead of us, many countries have been legally growing hemp for years, including Australia, Austria, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, and Ukraine.

Despite these setbacks in Indiana's hemp movement, there have been many recent steps forward. Just over a month ago on March 7, INHIA hosted a Hemp Happy Hour at Fountain Square Brewery. The event was full of hemp related products including a special hemp beer brewed by FSB. Though you can't get the beer anymore for the time being, Petty tells me there may be a chance to get it again during Hemp History Week, which is June 6-12.

This year's HHW is set to be the biggest ever, Petty says, "We hope many people will join us to promote the industrial hemp industry during this week; [there will be] retail and grocery events [at places like] Fresh Thyme and Whole Foods. This year, we will be pushing hard (and have already secured several) for restaurants to feature hemp-infused foods, and for breweries [to brew] hemp beer, throughout the week. There also will be opportunities for education, discussion and networking."If you want to try hemp beer and don't want to wait for June, you can always get the original, Humboldt Hemp Ale. The toasted hemp seeds in the popular brown ale add "a unique, herb-accented flavor."

So, get out there and try some hemp. Don't smoke it. Eat it. Drink it. Enjoy it.

To learn more about Indiana hemp, head over to inhia.com; you can volunteer and help get laws passed so this important plant can become a cash crop for Indiana. Make sure and let your voice be heard and let your representatives know you support industrial hemp.


(Editor's Note: This article was graciously boosted on social media by Earth Day Indiana [www.earthdayindiana.org]. Earth Day Indiana had no input on the content in this article or the decision to create it.)

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Cavan McGinsie

Cavan McGinsie

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I travel. I eat. I drink. I meet. I record. I'm the Food & Drink Editor here at NUVO and I'm always happy to chat with people about anything over a coffee, beer, or meal. Let me know your thoughts on Indianapolis.

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