Hemp Drink: This Stuff is Gooooooood

In the name of good health and a good read, each week we'll be bringing you a health product, complete with review. We're calling this feature Crunchy Granola -- even though we doubt much of this stuff tastes that good.

This week: hemp drink.

It is still unclear whether Arizona's medical marijuana measure, Proposition 203, will pass, but don't be fooled by the name of this week's feature: its fate doesn't hang in the balance of the state's legislative process, and you certainly don't need a cannabis card or a special dispensary to pick up a carton.

Hemp milk will give you a whole different kind of feel-good affect, in a crunchy, granola-y kind of way. Check out why, after the jump.

The hippie history: Hemp milk is made from the seeds that are used to grow the plant Cannabis sativa L, which eventually comes to be known as marijuana. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, the hemp seeds and food products made from the seeds do not contain any THC, the psychoactive substance that makes the cannabis plant so appealing to some. The seeds can be eaten as-is (Weil claims they are delicious and similar to sunflower seeds when toasted with a little salt), or smashed, mixed with water, and strained -- giving you a thick and creamy drink.

The above sounds delicious and very hippie, with one slight glitch: Where are these products produced, since it is illegal to grow and produce the cannabis plant in the United States? Our neighbors to the north can legally grow hemp for industrial use, and according to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a majority of the hemp products (including food and clothing) are produced in Canada.

Why am I drinking this again? Hemp milk is a great source of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids in a beneficial three-to-one ratio, Weil says, and contains nutrients galore (think magnesium, ascorbic acid, beta-carotene, calcium, fiber, iron, and potassium, among others).

And good news for all those protein-deficient vegetarians out there: Hemp milk contains 10 essential amino acids, and serves as a great source of protein.

However, the most interesting aspect of the drink might be that those who have dairy, soy, gluten and tree nut allergies (god forbid any combination of those together -- you poor souls) should be able to consume the milk without any worries, Weil says.

The crunchy conclusion: A nasty head cold has rendered this writer's taste buds non-existent, but I enlisted the help of my dad and my sister to give a final judgment on hemp milk. I chose the non-flavored offering from Trader Joe's (there was also a sweetened vanilla) which cost right around $3.

Flavor aside, I did get a chance to test out the consistency of the milk and I was pleasantly surprised: In many cases soy and almond milk fall flat in the creamy department and resemble water more than milk. Hemp milk was surprisingly thick and creamy, something I'm thinking would be perfect as a dairy substitute for a hemp milk smoothie, or even better: hemp milk ice cream (Sweet Republic, are you listening??)

I was reluctant to tell my whole-milk-drinking, hating-on-anything-organic father what he was trying, and by the look on his face after his first sip, I was ready to run. But he looked down at his glass with a pondering expression, and gave it a couple more wine-tasting-style slurps.

"The original taste threw me -- I didn't know what it was," he says. "Because it looks like milk, but definitely doesn't taste like milk. But once you get past the initial anticipation of what its going to taste like, its actually pretty good."

I was floored in a very, "He likes it! Hey Mikey!" kind of way. I was excited to try it on another test subject, my sister, who was far less impressed. "Woah," she says after the first sip. "At first it almost tastes like horchata, but then you get this weird, dirty grass taste." Key word, sis: grass.

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Kelly Green