An ice cream van peddling cannabis is perhaps every parent’s nightmare but a child would have to slurp a lifetime’s worth of this frozen dessert before they ever got high. The world’s first hemp ice cream launched this week is estimated to contain less than one part per million of the active ingredient which pot smokers are interested in.
In fact, hemp (Cannabis sativa) is being promoted as a healthy alternative to almost everything as it contains almost no saturated fat yet has a near perfect ration of essential fatty acids.
However, the plant’s dubious history means that MotherHemp, the company behind Hemp Ice, has had to get a licence from the drug enforcement section of the Home Office to grow the plant on its Sussex farm.
Chairman Will Stephens said: “We would rather be licensed by the Ministry of Agriculture — the Drug Squad hasn’t got the time. They are too busy tracking down criminals to worry about farmers who want to make clothes and ice cream.”
Hemp Ice is available in strawberry, mint chocolate chip and vanilla. At first lick it seems identical to a top quality commercial variety but then a slightly nutty aftertaste, particularly with the vanilla, reminds you that what you are eating is made of 67 per cent “aqueous extract” of hemp seed.
It contains no dairy products at all, making it a perfect dessert for vegans and people with dairy and lactose-free diets. The creamy hemp “milk” is produced by crushing the seeds in water and then straining the resulting mush.
Considered by nutritionists to be one of the most complete sources of protein known to man, hemp seeds also provide minerals, vitamins and essential fatty acids, all in a form easily digested by the body.
MotherHemp is also exhibiting other hemp food products, including fresh organic green and red pesto, hemp pasta and dehulled and toasted seed snacks for those long evenings in front of the TV.
For centuries hemp was a valuable source of fibres for rope and clothes, and the oil was used for food and medicine by the ancient Egyptians.
It was only in the last century that cotton and other products replaced it and after the Second World War it became inextricably linked to illegal drugs.
But now techniques have been developed to isolate THC, the narcotic element of the plant, so that “safe” varieties can be licensed and grown without the danger of hemp pesto being merely a cover for trade in “whacky baccy”. The upper limit for THC content in Britain is 0.03 per cent and MotherHemp’s plants contain less than 0.01 per cent. This is in the flowering heads, all of which are cut off and left to rot in the fields.
However, the association with long hair and uncontrollable giggling is hard to eradicate from the public’s mind. Mr Stephens said: “It’s the same plant but a different breed. This variety comes from the northern latitudes. The one you can smoke tends to come from hotter climates.
“We believe cannabis suffers from cannaphobia. They still don’t allow live hemp seeds into the US, although hemp beer was recently served on President Clinton’s private jet. People think hemp is either rope or dope. We chose the rope for our logo to steer them away from the idea of dope.”
That is where the company’s ice cream van has been so useful. In the last two years it has visited green festivals and events around the country to promote the concept and test the product.
Spurred on by the success of its food range, MotherHemp is now looking into the use of hemp as a biodegradable plastic and has come up with a frisbee — in an attractive mottled black — which is 25 per cent hemp fibre and will set you back £10.
Which means, of course, that if it ends up in the bushes it quietly returns to Mother Earth.
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