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Don’t laugh, hemp can be good for you

Posted on October 5, 2000

People will eat anything these days. Insects, dirt, wheatgrass, headcheese, foie gras. There’s even a whole section in the grocery store for fruit roll-ups.

This isn’t to say that hemp foodstuffs are insanely bizarre and unthinkably uneatable. But how many of us, besides Woody Harrelson, are currently sprinkling crushed hemp seeds on our salads? Or eating grilled hemp cheese sandwiches for lunch? Not many, that’s for sure.

But awareness of hemp culture is steadily growing. It may only be a matter of time before hemp food reaches the mainstream.

Cheba Hut, for example, already offers hemp brownies and hemp cream cheese on its menu. The restaurant, with two Tempe locations, even shells and roasts its own hemp seeds. Owner Scott Jennings says his brownies and sandwiches with the cream cheese are popular. Down the road he hopes to add even more choices for his customers.

Other than dining at Cheba Hut, hemp products are frustratingly difficult to find around town. But if you look beyond the fruit roll-up aisle at the grocery store, you might see a few interesting things.

HempNut, from California, absolutely rules the market. The company offers a startlingly diverse line of products, from lip balm to cookies. All of it is vegetarian, most is vegan, and some is organic.

The company’s hempseed and peanut butter is pretty good. Granted, it doesn’t taste like Jiffy, but it’s similar to almond butter or various sesame seed spreads. For curious first-timers, this is the place to start.

Veggie burgers are a common sight on restaurant menus, and, of course, there’s a Hempeh brand version out there, too. It’s mostly soy product, but there’s enough hemp seed to give it a smoky flavor. For full effect, melt some cheddar-flavored hemp cheese alternative over the burger. Honestly, it’s better than most of the veggie burgers crowding the grocery shelves.

For salad dressing, try hempseed oil. And substitute shelled seeds for nuts and croutons. Both are excellent and, if the labels can be trusted, more healthy than a hug from Mother Earth.

HempNut also tries to court the snack crowd. Its chocolate bar won’t satisfy a Twix jones, but it’s perfectly acceptable in a pinch. Plus, it’s organic and kosher, and loaded with lots of antioxidants.

Another company, Govinda’s, makes a host of other snack bars that we enjoy on a regular basis, but its Ginger-Chia Hemp Bar, despite being endorsed by Ziggy Marley, is far too exotic-tasting for mass appeal.

Eventually, even desperately behind-the-curve companies like Franco-American and Campbell’s may jump on the hemp bandwagon. Who knows? Maybe someday there will even be a hemp roll-up treat for kids.

Copyright © 2000, The Arizona Republic. All rights reserved.