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Terpenes, despite their ubiquity, are only now beginning to grab our collective attention. Marijuana’s improved status in American society has a lot to do with this. The more socially acceptable weed becomes, the more we all learn about it.
What is terpenes?
Most people now understand, for example, that cannabis has a host of medicinal properties. Many of these properties derive from terpenes found in the cannabis plant, which are also responsible for marijuana’s unmistakable scent.
For that reason, today terpenes are strongly associated with weed. While that is fair enough—there are hundreds of different terpenes in cannabis, after all—it’s important to note that terpenes are found in nearly all plant life, from apples to peppermint to hops. They are also the main component of essential oils (click here for a primer on the difference between the two).
When you smell the essential oil of lavender, for instance, what you’re really smelling is linalool, a terpene abundant in the lavender plant that has been shown to have stress-relieving effects.
Here are the guidelines
Terpenes and food
The list of potential uses of terpenes is long and diverse, and people are starting to take notice. Last year it was reported that bars in California were experimenting with terpenes in cocktails, including cannabis terpenes.
“It’s a tool that a lot of bartenders have never had at their disposal,” bar-owner Josh Christensen told New Times San Luis Obispo. “You’re messing with things at a molecular level. It’s kind of fun. It creates a situation where we have a kind of unlimited possibilities. It’s weird.”
It follows, then, that experimenting with terpenes in the kitchen would be equally fun. And it is. Thanks to their robust flavors and aromas, terpenes have the ability to enhance and transform a wide variety of your favorite dishes. So without further ado, let’s take a look at a few of the terpenes commonly employed for culinary purposes.
Found in many plants including hops, oregano, basil, rosemary, cloves and, yes, cannabis, caryophyllene gives strong hints of pepper and spice. It, therefore, does well with savory dishes, especially when combined with black pepper. If your recipe takes black pepper, consider adding some caryophyllene as well, then you may read all of our posts to get the idea to make recipe with delicious foods.
Keep in mind that caryophyllene has a low boiling point of 266° F.
As mentioned above, linalool is abundant in lavender. Known for relieving stress and anxiety, as well as helping to manage pain and inflammation, linalool is a great thing to add to minty dishes. Its vaporization point is 388° F.
The terpenes have traditionally been thought to merely contribute to the subjective experience of cannabis by enriching its aroma and flavor with the most favorable. The smell is intricately linked to emotion and memory centers in the brain, establishing a potential cause and effect between the pleasant lavender.
Given its zesty, citrusy smell and taste, it’s no wonder limonene is used so often in cooking. Plentiful in oranges, grapefruits, limes, and lemons, limonene is also present in many cannabis strains. Limonene will complement any dish with a citrusy character. It can also be added to herbal tea. Limonene boils at 348° F.
Found in small amounts in many cannabis strains, terpinolene has a nuanced and complex profile, offering traces of flowers, herbs, pine, and citrus. It is thus compatible with an array of foods. Feel free to get creative with terpinolene, which is also present in tea tree, cumin, nutmeg, lilacs, and apples. Just be sure to keep the temperature below its boiling point of 366° F.
Pinene, as the name suggests, smells like pine. Try pairing it with sage, basil, rosemary or parsley. Savory dishes of all varieties will benefit from the addition of a couple of drops of pinene. It has a vaporization temperature of 311° F.
So if you’re feeling a bit bogged down in the kitchen these days, consider introducing terpenes into the mix. They are a great way to liven things up and add an extra kick to your favorite dishes. Just remember that when it comes to cooking with terpenes, less is more: one or two drops are all you need!