We often hear the term “super food”, and often it seems it might be some food that is exotic and too expensive to use. The term is used to label foods that are particularly nutrient-rich. So, while some super foods might be more obscure, there are many that have become quite common – for instance leafy greens like kale and chard, chia seeds, quinoa, dark chocolate, and – hemp seeds.
I began experimenting with hemp seeds soon after they broke out in the Canadian market, around ten years ago. I was writing my second cookbook, Vive le Vegan!, and began using hemp seeds in my recipes for that book. I learned that hemp seeds are mighty little things, delivering: complete protein, essential fatty acids, chlorophyll, antioxidants, and other vitamins and minerals, an almost perfect balance of the essential fatty acids!
Fine with the stats. But how do they taste?.. and what do they look like? Hemp seeds resemble sesame seeds, but with a rounder shape, greenish tint, and with a much softer texture. They taste somewhat like sunflower seeds, but with a slight earthier and sweeter flavor. From hemp seeds, hemp nut butter can be made (just as almond butter is made from almonds). The nut butter has a distinctive greenish color (from the chlorophyll), and again has a taste somewhat similar to sunflower seed butter. Hemp oil, flour, and protein powders are also produced from the seeds. I’m personally not a fan of the protein powder straight up, and haven’t experimented much with hemp flour. While I have used (and like) hemp seed oil, I prefer consuming hemp in their whole seed form (or as nut butter), since the protein from the seeds is lost in oil form.
Hemp nut butter also makes a simple substitute in nut butter/jam sandwiches, and is particularly helpful for school lunches where nut and peanut allergies are present in schools (hemp has a very low allergenic risk). Since hemp butter is not as naturally sweet as a nut butter like almond or cashew butter, try stirring a few shakes of cinnamon into your jar of hemp butter as well as a drizzle of maple syrup. Then, it is already sweetened to add to sandwiches. While I use hemp nut butter occasionally (and also in recipes), I use hemp seeds quite regularly since they can be conveniently added to our daily foods. Some of the simplest ways you can add hemp seeds directly to your foods include:
- stir into non-dairy yogurt
- add to cold cereals and granola
- stir into warm oatmeal
- add to batters for pancakes, muffins, quick breads, and even cookies!
- sprinkle on salads and soups
- blend into shakes and smoothies
- toss into cooked grains and/or grain and bean salad mixes
What is YOUR favorite way to eat hemp seeds?