For as long as humans have been around – from the time we were swinging on vines to the present day –we’ve been fascinated with all things culinary. It was a brave trailblazer who first picked up a mushroom and thought, “this could be food”. It was an intrepid stomach that first looked at a heap of mouldy dairy and said, “let’s call this ‘cheese’”. And it was an innovative thinker who first stripped the bark of a cinnamon tree and saw its culinary potential.
Humans aren’t finished discovering, either. The modern culinary landscape has had a fascination recently with foraging, picking often overlooked flora and working them into high-end dishes. But, in some cases, chefs and culinary innovators have been held back from realizing the true potential of an ingredient due to issues of legality. One such case is cannabis.
Cannabis As a Culinary Trend
World-class chefs have been aware (or have, at least, heard story’s of) cannabis’ culinary potential for a long time, but have been unable to experiment with the botanical due to a patchwork of legal roadblocks. With the legalization of cannabis in Canada and some states, however, more chefs are starting to re-evaluate the plant, looking at it less for its psychoactive properties than its flavour properties.
It makes sense that cannabis is enjoying a moment in the culinary spotlight – just check these out and tell yourself you aren’t at least a little interested. There are a lot of things you can do with cannabis that don’t involve smoking. Many of the distinctive flavours in cannabis come from naturally occurring terpenes in cannabis.
Sniffing Out the Terpenes
Terpenes, for the uninitiated, are organic compounds present in cannabis (many plants, really) that produce a distinct aroma. Some terpenes in cannabis smell citrusy, like a freshly cut grapefruit, while others smell pine-y, like rosemary. Some have an earthy, spicy smell like black pepper. Different combinations of terpenes yield different and unpredictable scents and flavours
You can extract those terpenes a number of different ways. Yes, smoke is the most popular way, but you can also steep them in a fat (as with edibles) or steep them in water (as with cannabis infused teas). You can even find cannabis in food additives.
Using Terpenes in Culinary Applications
From there you use the distinctive profile of the terpenes to enhance a dish. Whereas you might have pared that Chilean sea bass with lemon segments, you can try a cannabis extraction high in the limonene terpene. To add lavender-like floral notes to a panna cotta, you could reach for an extraction high in the linalool terpene. The possibilities are endless!
Since the broadening acceptance of cannabis in modern culture, chefs have started experimenting with the plant’s culinary potential, finding all sorts of novel applications. That might mean sipping a hot mug of premium infused cannabis tea, eating a confection made from cannabis infused butter, or even cutting into a steak spiked with cannabis additives. Because there is such a spirit of exploration and excitement surrounding this ingredient, it definitely earns its title of the year’s hottest culinary trend.