Until recently, the word hemp has made most folks think of marijuana. In fact, both come from the cannabis sativa L. plant, although they are cultivated for very different reasons. Hemp grown for food and fiber, including that to be processed into hemp flour, has a very low tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, level, which means that, no matter how many hemp flour sandwiches a person eats, no cavorting dragons or affectionate talking squirrels are likely to appear. Hemp flour results from removing hemp oil from hemp seed.
Seeds of the hemp plant are relatively oily. About 30% of their makeup is oil. Once that oil is removed, what remains is a dense cake. In order to break the cake apart into usable flour, it must be ground. It’s far too dense to be used as a baking flour on its own, but when combined with other flours, it brings a nutty, rich flavor and a big nutritional wallop.
Adding the flour to wheat, barley, soy, or other flours in a ratio of one part hemp flour to four parts another flour deepens the texture, resulting in a heavier, chewier bread. It is gluten-free, so hemp flour doesn’t rise on its own. Adding it to baked goods such as bread, muffins, waffles, and the like provides a nice serving of fiber, offers lots of omega essential fatty acids, and increases the digestible protein to boot.
In fact, this flour is second only to soy, with 33% protein to soy’s slightly bigger 35%. It’s a bit easier to digest than soy, however, because of the way those proteins are structured. It also offers antioxidants, calcium, magnesium, and other healthy goodies like zinc and manganese.
Hemp flour may be happily consumed by sufferers of celiac disease or those with gluten intolerance without ill effect. There are actually no food allergies that have been connected to hemp at all. That means it’s also fine for folks with intolerance to nuts, sugar, or other triggers.
Not only does hemp offer nutritional boons in the forms of oil, seed, and flour, but it is incredibly good for the environment. Ancient people recognized hemp’s many uses and made it one of the earliest known cultivated plants. It has made it through many a millennium requiring no fertilization, and it laughs in the face of insects that destroy other types of crops. Hemp also grows at an extraordinary clip, must faster than wheat and other cultivated plants used for food or fabric.