It’s not what you think.
Well—it is but it isn’t.
That is indeed a pretty white glass of milk surrounded by the lovely green leaves of cannabis sativa. Marijuana milk. Pot juice. Call it what you will, but it won’t make you high. Though hemp milk is made from the pulverized seeds of the same family of plants that addle the brain and alter consciousness, the seeds have no psychoactive power. The milk could, however, make you very healthy (it has the grassy, pasty taste of something that must be horribly good for you). Studies confirm the drink is a reliable source of protein, fatty acids, calcium and various vitamins. Plus, people don’t seem to be allergic to hemp milk in the way that many are to cow, soy or nut milk. It’s actually illegal to grow hemp (and thus the seeds) in the United States, but it’s legal to buy the milk. (Most American sellers import the seeds from Canada.)
This particular glass, however, I sipped in the cool shade of an open-air dining room in northern Vietnam. Remember Shu? She’s started Sapa’s first Hmong-owned homestay and restaurant in Lao Chai village near Sapa. Her little place is ringed by tall, bushy cannabis swaying in the breeze. Its wispy clumps of leaves almost reminded me of the desert willow growing in our New Mexico yard. Shu brought out a glass of the milk, which was earthy and herbal and contained little brown flecks of seed. She said the plant has long served as an important part of the Hmong diet, particularly because of the nutritious oil that emerges when the seeds are heated. “If you cook, you see a lot of oil coming,” Shu said. “In the past, people were very poor, and people used to cook like this for tofu.”
Hemp tofu? That definitely sounds like something my new friends in Boulder might enjoy.