The term “hemp” refers to cannabis (marijuana), but is generally exclusive of the psychoactive forms of the cannabis plant. Traditional cooking with hemp seeds, the subject of this post, is not about whipping up some drinks, soups, porridge, or brownies to get high on. We are not discussing utilizing the THC-laden buds grown for recreational and/or medicinal purposes nowadays.
Hemp plants are indigenous to, and have grown wild, in many regions all over the world. For thousands of years, people living in these regions have made use of cannabis seeds in their traditional cooking. And why not? They grow freely, are widely available, and cost nothing more than the labor to go out in the fields and harvest them.
Traditional Cooking with Hemp seeds has been in use for many generations worldwide.
World regions such as China, Mongolia, Germany, Russia and Northeast Europe have, since remote ancient times, made use of wild hemp, and have long ago learned how to cultivate the plant for improved quality and seed production.
And in the Americas, North (Canada, USA and Mexico) and South (Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, etc.) the indigenous natives all knew of and used cannabis as a food source and for medicinal purposes.
Some native Amer-Indian tribes used the THC psychoactive forms of cannabis as part of their religious rituals and social practices, as well.
The traditionally famous “Peace Pipe” ritual is a prime example. When visitors from one tribe came to another tribe, they were treated to a smoke from a pipe, the bowl of which was loaded with the host tribe’s favorite herbs.
Some of the local tribes’ smoke of choice for this ritual was the dried and crushed THC buds from the marijuana plant.
But back on point…
European settlers who came to and eventually overtook the Americas had long been aware of cannabis plants in Old Europe. They were familiar with the nutritional uses of hemp seeds. Cultivation of the plant among the American settlers became normal, and is still widely practiced today.
Traditional cooking with hemp seeds takes on several forms of usage. The seeds may be used whole, rolled and/or ground to produce flour or meal, or pressed to extract oil. Used as oil, or whole, or as a flour or meal, a wide array of soups, stews, and porridges can be produced.
Because hemp seeds are rather difficult to de-hull, traditional cooking with hemp seeds in rural areas produced flour and meal that was quite gritty. Because of this, hemp flour and meal was not as popular as the other grains available, in spite of its well-known nutritional value. Even so, when famine or hard times hit, hemp flour and meal was a much welcomed resource to fall back on.
Of course now in modern times, where in most developed regions the proper machinery is available, hemp flour and meal produced today is just as fluffy and desirable as that of other grains.
Here are some of the ways in which different regions of the world have done (and still do) traditional cooking with hemp seeds:
Traditional Cooking with Hemp Seeds in Asia:
In China, even present day, hemp seeds are a popular snack food – much like Westerners enjoy popcorn. A Chinese family, while on outings, will commonly stop at local food stands in the marketplace and buy a bag of roasted hemp seeds. And roasted (also raw) hemp seeds are a favorite munchies food to serve at social gatherings.
The Chinese have eaten whole hemp seeds – roasted or raw – for so long the country has been known to characterize itself traditionally as “The Land of Hemp and Mulberry”.
In Nepal, for many generations, rural households have used the locally-produced oil from hemp seeds for cooking purposes. This practice still continues today. In fact, in many of the more isolated and remote areas, hemp seed oil is oftentimes the only type of vegetable oil used for cooking their meals.
Traditional Cooking with Hemp Seeds in Europe:
In Latvia, the most traditionally significant date in the calendar is the annual celebration, in June, of the Midsummer’s Day.
And guess what has been, for centuries, one of the most favorite traditional foods taken on that day?
You guessed it: hemp seeds.
The seeds are eaten whole, raw and/or roasted, but they are also crushed, the oils extracted, and added to sweet-cream butter. This imparts to the butter an appealing verdant hue, and gives it the slightly “bitter and smoky” flavor that is beloved by Latvians. Kaņepju Pavalgs, which this traditional hemp butter is known as, is still today enjoyed all over Latvia. Latvian health food stores and local farmers’ markets will have it, and the product sells in abundance.
The most common use of hemp butter is to use it as a spread on bread or toast. But it is also used as an ingredient in quite a few recipes. The pleasant and subtle color, aroma and flavor “accent” it adds to the dishes is considered especially desirable.
Hemp seeds and the oil produced from them were used in medieval Italy and Germany, for a number of culinary purposes. The dishes prepared using hemp included pie crusts and fillings, and several soups. In the Baltic and Northeast regions of Europe, where hemp cultivation has been and still is traditional, the local hemp seed is still produced and used widely. Whether used for its oil, or used whole, or crushed to make meal and flour, hemp is utilized in a wide variety of recipes.
A longstanding traditional dish in Lithuania is a savory porridge, hemp-based, which is served over baked, unpeeled potatoes. Kanapiø Koðë, as it is called, is made by first dry-frying hemp seeds. They are then ground into a fine powder. Once the powder is made, it is then used as a final additive to a mixture of pepper, salt, flour, and onion that has been simmered in hot water. The mixture is removed from the heat, and has the hemp powder stirred into it. Also used in certain religious festivals in Lithuania is hemp milk, a traditional substitute for cow’s milk.
Still traditionally served on Christmas Eve in descendants of Silesian and Lithuanian households (a historic region situated in the region now known as Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic) is a hemp-based soup called Siemieniatka kanapiø koðë (or, more commonly, semianka).
Semianka is prepared by putting whole hemp seeds in water and simmering them until they start to burst. They are then drained and crushed, a process which produces a sap-like, milky substance. This “hemp milk” is then used in combination with cow’s milk, with the addition of sugar, salt, butter and flour, and then simmered some more until it turns into a rich, creamy and thick, soupy porridge.
(Note: for a recipe on how to prepare your own Semianka, but with a bit less labor involved than these ancient peoples had to do, Click Here)
So there you have it, a fair sampling of the many ways traditional cooking with hemp seeds has been practiced throughout the ages in regions around the world.
And as “new” knowledge about the immense nutritional value of hemp foods comes to light, food products derived from the cannabis plant are rapidly increasing in popularity by even modern, cosmopolitan societies.
And not just because they providing a valuable addition to the formulation of a solid basis for a healthy diet, either. The many worthy properties of hemp include being of assistance in maintaining the body’s resistance to disease, as well as providing pain relief and sometimes cures for a good many illnesses.
If hemp is good for what ails you, then surely it makes for good food, too!
If you would like to try some hemp products, but can’t get them easily where you live, here are links to our online store:
Note: I would like to give credit to journalist, consultand and photographer Seshata Sensi for a good deal of this information that I found helpful during my research.
Chow, y’all, happy hemp seed foods preparing and eating, and hey – please leave a comment. I love to engage with my readers. Ask a question, offer a suggestion, whatever … it’s all good.
My Best Always, Your Friend,
Marvin D Wilson (AKA “The Old Silly”)
Contact us and/or Join Our Mailing List
(We respect your privacy. Subscribers’ info are not shared with anyone. EVER)