Hemp fan reaps what he sows
LAST month's decision to legalise hemp as a food in Australia was the news Paul Benhaim had waited 17 years for.
Well known for kicking off the UK hemp food industry when he created the first ever hemp seed snack bar, Paul moved to Australia in 1999 and started Bangalow-based Hemp Foods Australia.
Up until last month's decision, however, he could only sell his products in Australia for skin care purposes, and with a "Not for human consumption” label attached.
Now, with the door open for Aussies to legally enjoy the nutritional benefits of hemp seeds - widely regarded as one of the healthiest seeds in the world - Paul is keen to start sharing more ides and recipes on how to incorporate them into your diet.
"We're really happy that we can be a bit more open about talking about it now,” Paul says.
Hemp seeds come from a type of cannabis plant that is extremely low in THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana. They don't get you high. They are, however, packed with the beneficial fatty acids, Omega 3 and 6. They are also an easy-to-digest complete protein and are a source of vitamins and minerals.
The four main hemp food products
At the Hemp Foods Australia stall at the Mullumbimby Farmers' Market, there are four main hemp food products - hemp seeds, hemp protein powder, hemp oil and hemp flour, all of which are based on hemp seeds.
Unlike many so-called "superfoods”, hemp seeds actually taste good, with a creamy nutty flavour, and because they are a gluten-free, raw, organic, vegan product, they have a lot of versatility.
The seeds themselves can be sprinkled on virtually anything for a nutrient boost - salad, cereal, smoothies, casseroles, avocado on toast, and can also be made into a creamy hemp "milk” by blending with water.
The protein powder can be used in a similar way.
"A lot of people think the protein powder is just for smoothies, but it can also go into things like sauces,” Paul says. "Mix one tablespoon into your savoury sauce and you'll get a different texture and some added flavour and nutrition.”
Hemp oil, often used topically for skin conditions, can be drizzled on salads and soups, while hemp flour, which is high in soluble and insoluble fibre and good for digestion, can be added to foods like bread - substitute about 20% hemp flour.
Find Hemp Foods Australia at the Mullumbimby Farmers' Market every Friday.
RECIPE: Creamy hemp seed smoothie
Ingredients: 1/2 cup hemp seeds, 2 cups water, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 local banana, 1/2 bunch local kale, pinch sea salt, tsp local honey
Method: Place all ingredients in a blender, and then blend until smooth and creamy.