When you think of food and marijuana, you typically imagine people who smoke the dried leaf, either for medical or recreational purposes and then get the munchies, followed by the consumption of copious amounts of junk food to combat them. But did you know that chefs and gourmet food aficionados are exploring interesting ways to cook with cannabis?

And no, it’s not all space cakes and magic brownies either; ganja is going gourmet. The world of haute cuisine is starting to look at the flavor profile of cannabis as a unique way to give healthy and tasty food a shot in the arm. Whether they use enough of the stuff to get you high if you eat these foods, depends on each chef’s attitude and diners’ preferences, but the shift from demonizing marijuana to appreciating its health benefits is a welcome change.

The Hemp-Marijuana Mix Up
There’s plenty of confusion about marijuana and hemp. Hemp has several health benefits such as being chock full of essential amino acids and fatty acids, making it a complete source of protein. It is also less likely to cause allergies than products made of nuts or soy. When it comes to food items like biscuits, cakes, cookies, pasta and even bread, hemp flour is being touted by nutritionists as a healthy, tasty alternative to wheat and other refined grain-flours. Plus it is often grown organically compared to other grains, meaning it is free from pesticides, fertilizers and puts less strain on our planet’s limited resources of fresh water.

Hemp flour is rising in popularity but some folks still worry about how safe it is to consume, probably because hemp is often associated with marijuana. While they’re both species of the genus cannabis, and they both have the iconic five-fingered leaves, there’s little similarity apart from that. Marijuana and industrial hemp is not the same thing.

Coming back to marijuana, certain strains of it are being cultivated to be used specifically for food. Chefs are experimenting with it by employing it like any other herb as well as using it to create mousses, foams, sautéing it, frying it, and cooking it in cream to create myriad dishes.

But Why Eat It Instead Of Smoking It?
Well, ingesting cannabis in an edible form instead of smoking or vaporizing it has a two-fold effect; the buzz lasts for four to five hours as opposed to just a couple, respectively. Plus, you save your lungs from the harmful effects of smoke inhalation, such as bronchitis and cancer.

5 Kitchen Hacks For Cooking With Cannabis

  1. Use small amounts of it, since low doses allow you to savor the flavor and enjoy the after effects in a subtle way, rather than getting overwhelmed.
  2. There are several kinds of cannabis that can be used in cooking but it should always be the dried variety, since fresh cannabis leaves will lend a grassy taste to your dish. And they contain very little of the psychoactive substance called THC since it is necessary for a process called decarboxylation that occurs when you dry the plant, to make it psychoactive.
  3. You need to use a carrier such as butter, which you then add to the food you’re making but if you are vegan or don’t want animal-derived products or saturated fats in your food, then you can substitute with things like olive oil or coconut oil.
  4. Flavor-wise, the chemicals called terpenes and flavonoids found in all plants will make some marijuana strains taste like citrus and lend others a more pine-like flavor. Almost all kinds pair well with ingredients like peanut butter and chocolate.
  5. Temperature affects the final product as cooking it on high heat will make the THC degrade, so baking it or simmering it at low to medium heat is ideal.

Image: Shutterstock

PS: Head to our Food section for healthy recipes and the latest food trends.
Also, find quick and easy 
Nutrition tips here.

Read More:
Hemp Oil: Is It Safe To Consume?
DIY Hemp Oil Body Butter
Why Your Kitchen Is Incomplete Without Hemp Oil (Plus, A Mouthwatering Salad Recipe)

Simona is a journalist who has worked with several leading publications in India over the last 17 years, writing on lifestyle topics and the arts, besides interviewing celebrities. She made the switch to public relations and headed the division as PR Manager at ITC Hotels’ flagship property, the ITC Grand Chola, but has since returned to her first love, journalism. Now she writes on food, which she is sincerely passionate about and wellness, which she finds fascinating and full of surprises. When she isn’t writing, she is busy playing the role of co-founder and communications director of The Bicycle Project, a six-year-old charity initiative that empowers tribal children in rural areas, while addressing the issue of urban waste.