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Not such a bad seed after all

Posted on May 22, 1995

Hawaiian chef serves up hemp

Lahaina, Hawaii — You’re not allowed to grow it — or smoke it — but the “Weed with Roots in Hell” sure makes a nice pie crust.

Hemp, also known as cannabis sativa or marijuana, among other names, was served up in a nonpotent form in a variety of dishes by award-winning chef Mark Ellman at the recent Hemp Seed Banquet, part of the Hemp Clothing Fashion Show and Mini-Hemp Expo here last month.

“I’ve been cooking 26 years, and I never cooked with hemp seeds before,” said Ellman, chef at the Avalon Restaurant here. “The product is sort of nutty; it has a sesame-pumpkin-seed flavor. It was very interesting.”

For the banquet Ellman prepared dishes that included flat bread with hemp cheese, grilled Portobello mushrooms with hemp oil glaze, hemp-oil salad dressing, hemp-crusted mahi mahi and I’ve Got the Munchies Cheesecake, which featured a hemp-seed crust.

“It’s quite a domineering factor,” Ellman said of the seed’s impact on his recipes. “It’s big and crunchy and has a strong flavor.”

Other hemp-based Hawaiian food products at the expo, which was organized by hemp activist Susan Osborn of Maui’ana magazine to showcase the plant’s utility, included hemp-oil cheese and hemp seed chocolate-chip cookies. Ellman donated part of the space in the Avalon for exhibitors to showcase their hemp-based products.

“There was a lot of tie-dye in the audience that day,” he said.

Although it has long been illegal to grow the plant in the United States, hemp seeds and hemp oil, which have high levels of protein and essential fatty acids, are imported legally from the Far East after being steam-sterilized to neutralize the TCH the chemical that ‘gets you high.’ Sterilized hemp fibers also are woven into cloth that is imported from the Far East.

“A lot of baby boomers are really getting behind the promotion of hemp, especially the use of hemp in textile products,” Ellman said. “I myself was really impressed with the hemp clothing.”

He said Japanese and European cooks have long included hemp seeds and oil among their basic ingredients, but he noted that the dishes he created were from his own imagination.

The banquet served 80 people — and turned away the 120 who were on the waiting list. A second banquet is planned for sometime in the near future at neighboring Longhi’s Restaurant.

Ellman said he may use the hemp seed in special dishes occasionally at his restaurant.

“It’s fun to use,” he said. “It’s fun to see the reaction you get from your customers.”

Osborn seeks to legalize the plant, and she encourages its use as part of ‘the green revolution.’

Hemp, she says, has a variety of uses other than cooking, including as a component, with recycled paper — in the production of heating fuel, in medicine because of its properties as a muscle relaxant and an appetite stimulant — and in the manufacture of paper and textiles.

The crop was widely grown in the United States before the 1930s, when marijuana became classified as an illegal drug.

Copyright © 1995, Nation’s Restaurant News. All rights reserved.