Hemp is a natural, long-lasting, fibre obtained from the tall-growing species of the cannabis plant.
Typically it is produced from the leggy Sativa strains which have few psychoactive properties. These plants can grow from between 15 to 20 feet tall and it is the bast or layer just inside the outer skin that it used to produce the coarse fibre we know as hemp. The coarsest fibres will be used for rope-making, footwear, animal bedding, clothing and,as we shall see, a host of other products. It is truly a versatile plant and one that has been of enormous aid to mankind.
Who would have imagined that the cousin of the one that takes you on a trip, relaxes you or takes away your pain and cures your ills is also an ingredient of a building material known as Hempcrete?
This is essentially the hurds, or the fibre sheath around the core which is ground and mixed with natural lime to make a concrete-like material. An interesting fact is that the hemp plant absorbs carbon dioxide as it grows. It retains the carbon while giving off oxygen, thus providing us with the essentials of life. Theoretically in one cubic meter of hempcrete wall, as much as 165 kg of carbon can be bound up and imprisoned while it petrifies over the course of time. The hempcrete blocks look very similar to the typical grey concrete blocks known as breeze blocks, or more boringly – CMU´s (concrete manufacturing units).
Hemp fibre is often blended with other natural fibres to make clothing. Silk or cotton would used with about 55% of hemp fibre. The result is a natural breathable and very wearable material. None the less important is the food value of this crop. The leaves can be eaten raw in salada and are also used in the production of a tofu style preparation and hemp ice cream. But the seeds of the plant are the most commonly processed. Flour is made from them and used in baking. They are crushed to make hemp oil which is full of proteins and very nutritious. The seed when sprouted can be used to make hemp milk which is like soya milk. There is a hemp, nut-style, butter, even hemp waffles.
The seeds are a great source of dietary fibre but also of essential minerals like zinc, magnesium and iron. A 100 gram serving provides more than 70% of your daily protein requirements. The amino acids it contains are similar to those found in milk, meat, eggs and soy. Its essential fatty acids include linoleic, alpha-linolenic, oleic and other poly-unsaturated fats. It is no wonder that hemp has been grown as a crop since man started planting seeds. (It´s also ironic that those who are so against the legalization of mrijuana have probably been using this “cousin” without realizing it all their lives!) Anyhow, none of these foods gets you high even though they come from the same plant. The levels of THC are negligible. However, marijuana is also used in cooking for recreational and medical applications, but that is another subject and another article.