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Hemp on the menu

Jeremy Ashby cooks hemp pasta at Azur Restaurant and Patio.

Azur Restaurant Group executive chef and co-owner Jeremy Ashby can be found trying new things in the kitchen on a regular basis, and this was no exception: hemp pasta.

“It’s mystical to people,” he said. “There’s a lure to it.”

In the state of Kentucky in the early 1900s, industrial hemp was a major crop, arguably more impactful than tobacco ever was. Banned in the late 1930s as part of the Marijuana Tax Act, hemp was illegal to grow for decades until 2014 when the Federal Farm Bill passed allowing cultivation and commercialization of industrial hemp for research purposes when states have enabling legislation. Kentucky had such legislation, and since then farmers, legislators and private enterprise alike have not looked back.

For foodies like Ashby, it’s a welcome opportunity to look for new ways to partner with farmers and try cooking with the superfood.

Ashby wants to see Kentucky farmers given more tools to flourish and wants to source his ingredients locally. Currently most of his hemp ingredients are from Canada.

“I’m tired of the environmental impact of shipping it all the way from Canada when we can grow it here,” he said, echoing sentiments of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture that also hopes to see a federal law unbinding the growth of industrial hemp.

“This will be an incredible farm impact for Kentucky,” he said. “When this all happens, I want my recipes tested and ready to go.”

He added, “I don’t look at hemp as a center of a plate item, but more of a supplemental or garnish to food. It’s an additive and a nourishing element of a dish. Hemp crusted chicken is something I could eat on a daily basis.”

Hemp flour, hearts and protein can be added to just about any dish. Ashby adds hearts to rice or tosses them on a salad. With 50 percent protein, hemp is a great addition to pasta, providing a nutrient-rich meal. — Abby Laub

Hemp-Pasta_1Jeremy’s Hemp Pasta
2 cups of flour
1 cup of hemp protein
2 eggs
1 tbsp of hemp oil
1 tsp salt

Mix dry ingredients, form a bowl, crack eggs, and add oil, knead into a dough. Add water if dough is dry.

Roll out dough, and cut into any desired pasta shape. Cook in a frying pan for about two minutes. Strain, reserving some of the hemp water. Toss in a pan with freshly grated parmesan, butter, salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh tomatoes, hemp hearts, olive oil or pesto.

Serve warm.