Hemp in the Kitchen Makes for Cutting Edge Culinary Adventures

Thanks to Charlie Levine of Hemp Acres in Waconia, I got to test the hypothesis whether hemp is truly a food source.  Spoiler: I was pleasantly surprised!

Charlie equipped me with a sack of hemp seeds. To be clear, these seeds are grown from the industrial hemp strains – the taller, more robust cousin of the flowering CBD strain.  Charlie grew upwards of 70 acres of industrial hemp last season and after purchasing a silo, auger, and press, as well as becoming food safe certified. Hemp Acres is finally ready to squeeze out some tasty oil (pictured in the white container).

My expectations for the hemp oil flavor were quite low due to previous samplings of way too earthy varieties.  However, Hemp Acres’ oil strikes a nice balance between some earthiness, nutiness, a touch of sweetness, and most importantly subtleness. I note this last characteristic as hemp oil so easily takes on the flavor of the main ingredient.  Said otherwise, if you’re flavoring with your oil, you may have a problem.

Passes the first test – toasted bread dipped in the oil.  Check out the nice olive hue. The consistency and texture was quite similar to olive oil. The flavor however is not nearly as sweet.

Next up was homemade hempcakes, pancakes made with crushed hemp seed.  We used a grinder and mortar and pestle to minimize the seeds and crack open the hemp heart (seed innards).  Once crushed, the hemp hearts were surprisingly damp, hiding the seed’s moisture inside.

We mixed the crushed hemp seed with whole wheat flour and water to make a nice, albeit grainy pancake mix.  I’ll be honest – I was very skeptical midway through cooking, as the thought of a crunchy pancake didn’t sit well. In the end, the crunchiness was a welcomed addition.  The cakes were – dare I say – healthy. They had an airiness, a crunch, and were less sweet than the standard cake.  

Did I mention protein? Yes, these bad boys pack a protein punch you’ve never seen before in this breakfast favorite. Eggs are a staple in my diet. Therefore, hemp seed oil substituted for olive oil was the lowest hanging of all fruits for me.  From a nutritional standpoint, the oil is very high in omega fatty acids, a necessity for our body and an inflammatory.

Out of all the recipes I tried, eggs were the most distinct, due in large part to the lack of flavor.  Meaning, I could taste the uniqueness of the hemp oil most in this recipe. That’s not a bad thing by any means. Nonetheless, hemp seed oil is a foreign flavor for most palettes and will take some getting used to.

Protip: watch the heat.  Hemp seed oil has a smoke point of 332 degrees, but can be cooked at temperatures up to 475°F for up to 30 minutes.And now for the item I am most excited to share – hemp salad dressing! Why? Because I believe hemp seed oil is perfectly suited to act as the base for nearly any tasty dressing.  It has the right consistency and is not too bold. For my dressing, I mixed the oil, dijon mustard, fresh onion, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper. The end result was a more than tasty vinaigrette drizzled over avocado.  Don’t mind the close-up photo, I went a little overboard with the mustard.  

Last, but not least – pan roasted veggies in hemp seed oil cooked over an open fire.  Here, I learned that less was certainly more. I over-oiled the pan and to boot, cooked up zucchinis which should have been cooked over grates due to their water content.  The prognosis here was a big fail, but not due to the hemp seed oil, rather due squarely to the cook!

In sum, these adventures in hemp seed oil cooking could not have been more fun.  I mean, really, how often do we get to include a completely new ingredient in our diet?  

I am most excited to try hemp seed recipes from actual chefs – people who have been traditionally trained.  The sky is truly the limit with both hemp seed oil, hemp seeds, and hemp hearts. Bon apetit!