Originally published on Hemp Industry Daily – full article here
By: Laura Drotleff
Could hemp baby greens be the next must-have superfood heading for consumers’ salad bowls?
Researchers around the country are studying the viability of another potential revenue stream for producers, beyond the grain, fiber and flower crops for which the hemp plant has become most closely associated.
Hemp baby greens are being grown and taste-tested as a potential new high-value, niche leafy greens crop to add to the consumer’s plate.
But the legality of hemp baby greens as a crop is unclear. While hempseed and grain foods have been deemed generally recognized as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there is still no legal precedent set under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s interim final rule for hemp production for the plant to be produced and marketed as a leafy green yet, according to Robert Masson, an agriculture extension agent with the University of Arizona’s Yuma County Extension.
Arizona is the No. 2 producer of lettuce in the U.S., after California, and most of the produce that’s grown in Arizona is farmed in Yuma County.
“We have the cropping system for it; we have … mechanical harvesters that can harvest it; we have coolers and we have shipping infrastructure to feed the nation with leafy greens, lettuce, romaine lettuce, iceberg lettuce,” Masson told Hemp Industry Daily. “That’s our cash crop here.”
Masson planted 17 different grain and fiber hemp varieties in the Yuma trial fields, maintaining the crop for 18 days before the hemp leafy greens were harvested.
Hemp baby greens “grows like a weed,” Masson said. The crop was grown to the three-leaf stage and even flowered, which helped neutralize some of the bitter taste of the leaf.
Hemp baby greens may also offer a high nutritional value, though research in this area is ongoing.
“When you eat it, it’s very dense,” Masson said of the hemp baby greens “You can feel the fiber moving through you; even though it’s nice and tender, it still has a lot of fiber to it.”
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