Strains of Yesteryear
By DJ Short
A retrospecive of the best marijuana varieties from the 70's and 80's
Colombian Gold came from the highland Colombian valleys near the equator, as well as on the coast (the Caribbean and the Pacific).
This was specialty pot offered commercially in the mid-70's, for about $60 to $100 per ounce. It was seeded, but most of the seeds were undeveloped, white and useless. A few rare, viable seeds were found that were dark, small-sized and roundish. The buds were leafy and the most beautiful golden blond color. Legend has it that upon maturity the plants were girdled, then left standing to die and cure in the mountain sun and mist.
The color and cure were unique, and the aroma, flavor and high were equally so. The smell was that of sandalwood incense, almost like frankincense. The flavor was that of a peppery cedar. It was some of the most unique tasting herb in the world, and the high was just as exciting. It was truly psychedelic, powerful and long lasting.
First came the great flavor, then the stupefying awe of the shift in consciousness followed by a giddy excitement and bursts of joyous laughter. Smile-lock and red-eye made it painfully obvious who was under the influence of this great psychedelic herb.
The plants from the seeds of the Gold were primarily of Sativa origin. They grew a medium to tall size outdoors at 45°N (Seattle), and were mostly symmetrical. On occasion the symmetry was interrupted by one side outgrowing the other, causing a rounded and bulging tipped bush look. The leaves were long and slender.
When grown in Washington state, the finished product was a sweet, spicy Sativa bud that matured around mid-November. The high was adequate but not as good as the Oaxaca Highland grown at the same latitude. The plants were also slightly hermaphroditic.
Colombian Red was the near polar opposite of Colombian Gold. This lowland jungle pot (possibly from Brazil) was made up of dark red, almost black, chunky little nuggets of what appeared to be hash, stems, leaf and seed. The aroma was that of cedar and hash.
In the early 1980's, the Red cost only $30 to $60 an ounce due to its appearance, making it one of the best deals going. This pot was a narcotic, knock-you-down-and-out, super munchie, red-eye express. The joints would only burn half way before drowning in their own resin! The smoke was very expansive in the lungs with a powerful pine/hash flavor.
Before subjecting its victim to fits of gorging and deep snoozing, the experience usually included ridiculously long spasms of uncontrollable laughter. The silliest little image could induce hilarity beyond belief. This was the main herb around when the Cheech and Chong movies first came out.
The plants from the Red were among the first grown out by Americans. There were many seeds, medium-sized and dark grey, that sprouted and grew easily into a finished product that was more than adequate. The plants grew low, dark, and bushy, with uneven and somewhat scraggly branches that were easily broken from wind damage. The locally grown varieties rarely budded very much, so it is not certain when they would have finished. It would have been relatively late in November at the earliest.
Highland Gold, somewhat similar to the Colombian Gold, lacked bright gold color but sported purple and red calyx tips on its blondish-brownish-green buds. It had larger buds surrounded by long, skinny leaves.
I smoked this variety during brief periods in the early 70's and again in the late 70's, paying anywhere between $40 and $120 per ounce. It was some of my all-time favorite because the aroma and flavor were of a super-spicy cedar incense with a slight fermented berry taste, in a very comfortable yet powerfully psychedelic pot. This herb contributed to many great parties, concerts and events of the era because it produced a very socially-conscious experience and mixed well with other psychedelics.
With a long lasting, creeper high that kept coming on in waves over the hours, this stuff had no ceiling. One phenomenon consistently reported from the Highland Oaxaca experience was that of peripheral visual distortions of primarily cartoon color images. This tended to increase the visual distortions caused by other psychedelics such as mushrooms or LSD.
The Oaxaca Highland Gold was a nearly pure Sativa which grew tall at 45°N, outdoors. It was also one of the most symmetrical Sativas I have encountered. The plants grew long side branches toward the bottom, and the even growth made these productive beauties look like Christmas trees when mature.
The finished product was a very sweet and spicy herb of the highest quality, with a hint of fruity pine aroma. The seeds for this variety were small, dark and round, and the plants exhibited slight signs of hermaphroditism and required surveillance to maintain seedlessness.
This strain from Mexico's coastal mountains came in famed green, seeded spears and cost $60 to $120 per ounce in 1977. It had a spicy, almost wintergreen fragrance compared to the other Mexicans with a very clear head high and a most pleasant smoke. It was not as strong as most, but this herb still had a way of satisfying all its own.
There was a legend about a group of entrepreneurs who imported seed from Lebanon to Guerrero and grew the famed Lebanese Upper Mountain (LUM) from the late 1970's to 1980. The LUM was electric, psychedelic and slightly sedative as well. A unique herb that I wish there would have been more of.
The seeds from the Guerrero were medium to large in size and grey to green in color. The plants from these seeds grew similarly to other Mexican and Colombian strains: a medium to tall, bushy, productive plant. The Guerrero Green, however, is where some of the famed onion and garlic flavored bud of the Pacific Northwest originated.
Michoacan Brown Spears
From the high valleys of Michoacan, this strain was very similar in shape and texture to the Guerrero, but dark brown, and with a more peppery, spicy, woody aroma. $40 to $60 bought a seeded ounce in 1975. Although it was somewhat more bland tasting than the Guerrero , this semi-commercial pot was by far better than the commercial Mexican that was all too available. It had a more distinct, spicy flavor than the regular Mexican, as well as a brighter high that was not as susceptible to tolerance or burnout.
The plants from the Michoacan Spears were nothing great. They were thick and bushy and matured earlier than the Colombians. Some were ready in late October, but most were ready in early November. The seeds were medium grey and plentiful. Like the Guerrero, they produced some unique spicy flavors when grown outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.
Highland Thai was among the absolute sweetest and fruitiest herb on the planet. The delicate, sticky Sativa buds so efficiently tied to the little sticks were among the finest of herb.
The Highland Thai, I believe, is at least partially where the Haze variety originated. It was one of the finest Sativa plants grown for its finished product at 45°N.
It is from this variety that Juicy Fruit Thai came. Juicy Fruit Thai was one of the original (and very successful) P1's of my breed stock. Juicy Fruit Thai grew fast, long and very unevenly. Every week or so another side branch would erupt in a growth spurt, compete with and conquer any existing meristem (main stem), and become the temporary meristem until another faster shoot overtook it. The leaves were very long and slender, containing as many as 13 leaflets, and deeply contoured.
The Juicy Fruit Thai took anywhere from one to 19 weeks in the indoor bud cycle to finish. Outdoors, the Juicy fruit was smokable, but undeveloped and leafy, by late September. Small buds developed during October and would ripen and swell during November. The longest I was ever capable of growing Juicy Fruit outdoors was until mid-December, in a greenhouse, and the plant could have gone on longer.
The primary drawback to growing the Highland Thai, after its leafiness, was its hermaphroditism. Though few seeds were found, and plants grown from the seeds produced only minor quantities of seed, all of the product was hermaphroditic. Also, many of the male flowers were sterile on some of the plants, or on certain parts of certain plants.
Out of all of the varieties that I have worked with at 45°N, this Thai produced some of the most powerful herb. This stuff was purely cerebral, yet mentally devastating in quantity, with absolutely no ceiling. Once, a seasoned smoker friend and I tested how far we could go with the homegrown Juicy Fruit. I recall making it to the 14th bong hit and being completely incapable of continuing. My coordination and depth perception were so skewed that I was unable to physically conquer the bong! The experience rivaled that of taking too much LSD, causing an incapacitation of the psychedelic kind. Yet, it was also uniquely enjoyable, entertaining and educational at the same time. I had sparkly eyes for a day or two afterward.
The aroma was a super-sweet fruity tropical punch and the flavor expressed itself both in the bud and the smoke.
The Chocolate Thai was another being entirely. Chocolate Thai came in larger wrapped sticks of a deep, rich, roasted coffee color and a coffee-chocolate aroma that was heavenly. It is my uncertain estimation that the Chocolate Thai was a lowland variety.
The imported product itself was unique not only in its aroma and flavor but in its strength as well. This was a dreamy, sleepy, narcotic high that was long lasting and consistent. The aroma possessed a deep, rich chocolate, appeal.
The seeds, many of which were pure black, were extremely small and round. They were few in numbers and only a few would sprout. The plants that did survive were terribly difficult to grow, and all were hermaphroditic. The leaves were long, dark and slender, with most sprouting trichomes early on. This strain was successfully crossed with the Oaxaca Highland to create what came to be known as Purple Thai.
There was a bit of the Vietnamese herb around in the 70's, primarily early harvest which was mostly badly-cured leaf. Nonetheless, it had a quality all its own with a spicy, tangy flavor and crisp high. It was great joint pot, but I never grew any.
I heard rumors that a Vietnamese strain was cultivated in the Emerald Triangle in the 70's and early 80's.
Opium Soaked Herb
An element was added to certain shipments of Thai herb in the 70's: "early water."
A by-product of the heroin trade, early water was the leftover water used to create the heroin from the raw opium.
It contained all of the constituents of opium except most of the heroin.
The curing Thai herb was soaked in the water and redried to absorb the opiate alkaloids. The result was a high that was sought out by some, but more than most bargained for. A good wash was an enjoyable thing, but some were over-laced, which caused a dilemma for those who would start spinning after a few hits on a joint.
Black Magic African
This herb is the strongest ever. Although I have only smoked the Black Magic a very limited number of times, and I've never had more than a joint of my own, I feel it needs mention. I did once get to see a bag of this herb that belonged to someone else. It looked like rotted, black leaf, some leaves intact but crumpled, plus a powdery black shake. It had no particular odor other than sweet spicy moldy hay, and rolled best into thin pinjoints.
The smoke was slightly harsh, but with a very deep, rich flavor. I also recall that it produced lots of white smoke. Anyhow, this stuff was dangerous! I often questioned if it was truly pure herb. I have, however, sampled the same product from different sources at different times, all with the same story.
It was equatorial Black African, the supposed herb of some tribe, Pygmy group, or another equally incredible origin! It was likely an indigenous Central African herb. One pinjoint between three or four people was more than adequate. This was truly the most devastating and consciously inebriating herb I have ever smoked.
I do not recall ever passing out or losing consciousness, but I did have to let go in order to come back . This stuff alone could cause one to reach 3.5 pluses on the Shulgin psychedelic rating scale!
I never was able to acquire seeds from the Black African, though I have tried. It is one of the few indigenous strains that I am interested in working with.
Durban herb has reached semi-commercial levels in the past. All of the South African herb that has made it to market that I have tried has been a bit too powerful and speedy. I always get that heart racing effect similar to the Jamaican. There are, however, very many people who enjoy a good carnival ride herb, and Durban is a very powerful choice, indeed.
The seeds of Durban that I grew during the early to mid-80's produced medium/tall Sativas with spear shaped buds – uniform plants in both structure and finished product. Although production was good, the flavor was a sharp, astringent, chemical odor that burned the nose and sinuses.
There was some fine Venezuelan herb available briefly in the mid-1970's for between $50 to $70 an ounce. It was sort of like the better commercial Colombian or Mexican of the day, but it was a bright yellowish color and not as tightly bricked, making the buds fluffier than most other bricked shipments.
The smoke was sweet, then spicy on the exhale – evidence of a good cure. The head was also a bit more pleasant than the more commercial varieties.
Unfortunately, I was never able to grow any of the many seeds available from the Venezuelan. I remain curious as to how they would fare both indoor and out.
The high was intense and strong but not notably enjoyable, so the Durban was dropped from any further breeding work.
Indian Elephant & Buddha Stick
There was a small supply of Indian tied stick pot available at the end of the 70's and the beginning of the 80's. These sticks were characterized by their large size compared to the smaller Thai Stick.
The Buddha stick was lighter colored and sweeter with a distinct juniper flavor. It was very stimulating to the palate. The Elephant stick was the largest tied sticks, some up to an ounce each, and darker. Of the two, I preferred the Buddha due to its being more cerebral and heady, but the Elephant stick was a fine and powerful product as well.
I was able to grow some of the seeds from the Buddha stick. It produced a pungent smelling herb of the juniper/licorice flavor. Most of the plants grew medium bushy, and most, but not all, were hermaphroditic. The harvest time was medium as well, 10 to 12 weeks indoors, very late October to November outdoors at 45°N.
I called the product Gin Blossom and grew a bit of her in the late 70's and early 80's. It was not until I replicated the flavor in the Blueberry lines that I retired the Gin Blossom strain.
From what I've gathered, Panama Red comes from any number of brash entrepreneurs who have damned the tides of oppression and grown copious amounts of primarily good old Colombian Red seeds in the wonderfully situated country of Panama, or any of her many isles.
Located a mere eight or nine degrees north of the equator, this tropical paradise has a coast on both the Pacific or the Caribbean Sea, without much distance between them, but a lot of elevation. The Panama Red that I am accustomed to was similar to the Colombian Red, but airier – not as compressed. It had a unique island flavor to it, with a spicy/sweet Sativa rush. Some called it the Tequila of herb, as it produced a high that greatly lowered inhibitions, creating a desire to consume more until it was too late!
For some drinkers, the Panama Red did not mix too well with alcohol, but for most it was a pleasant party high.
I did grow some seeds of Panama Red on more than one occasion. The plants were of the medium bushy character of the Colombian Red, with a little more hermaphroditism, and very long flower cycle (12 weeks indoor, late November outdoors). Unfortunately, however, this was at the same time that I was also growing the famed Highland Thai and new Afghan plants that were so unique, new and powerful, and the Panama Red became neglected.
Moroccan hash is the North African staple. It appears anywhere from deep brown to golden yellow and has a spicy leather flavor to it. Almost all Moroccan hash is screened and pressed. Though lower in potency than most black hash, this commercial offering costs less and tends to be more readily available through the years.
Moroccan plants are shorter and designed to grow tightly together, producing a single hemp-like stalk and a fat and dense single cola at the top. It is an apparent Sativa/Indica cross.
Lebanese Red and Blonde
Lebanese is another Sativa/Indica cross of short stature and density. A bit shorter and bushier than the Moroccan, it had a dark reddish hue.
The legendary Red Lebanese hash holds its own place. Red Leb had the distinct pine/juniper flavor and aroma, with a tangy spice leather to the exhaled smoke. It was sharp on the sinuses and nasal passages.
Most Red Leb hash was screened and pressed, except for the legendary Red Lebanese Honey Oil. The famed oil, only available to me from 1973-77, was in a class all of its own. The oil had a sharp juniper/cedar smell to it. It was the most powerful, lung expansive cannabis product that I had ever encountered. We would buy these glass oil pipes simply to find them useless, as no one could hold even the smallest toke of this stuff.
The oil had to be smeared onto a rolling paper or the side of a cigarette, or it had to be chased into a pile of herb with a flame from below. It was truly some of the finest. The home-grown isomerized oils of the 80's were pale in comparison to the great Red Leb.
Lebanese Blonde, the "working person's hash," was a lower grade of hash than the Red, and quantities were less expensive as well. It was less dense, making grams appear larger and giving the illusion of economy. Good Blonde had character, a spicy/woody flavor and aroma, plus a clean, woody taste. The high was a bit more than the Red, furthering the appeal to working people.
Nepalese temple balls
The Buddhists have a saying: "May all beings be happy." They also have a hash to back it up with: black finger rubbings from high in the Himalayas. This was some of my all-time favorite.
Nepalese is among the most cerebral of hashish. A strong yet pleasant head journey packed in every puff. This is some of the happiest hash I have experienced. The taste is spicy/fruity/earthen and among the most enjoyable of hash flavors. Most Nepalese hash is from rubbings, although I have heard from travelers to the area that screened and pressed varieties are available.
Simply put: Nepalese Temple Ball is some of the happiest, fruitiest and most pleasantly flavorful, highest quality hash that I have ever experienced.
Afghanistan & Hindu Kush
Rolling off the great crest of the Himalayas to the west and to the north are an apex of mountainous zones that define the northern borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Squished among these is the little region of Kashmir and the Hindu Kush mountains. This area may well be the oldest hashish producing area in the world, perhaps the birthplace of hash!
The plants of the area, the Indica variety, have been manipulated and bred by humans since antiquity. Short, dense and stout, with wide, dark leaves, these plants make the best of their high mountain, short-seasoned environment. They were bred to produce large amounts of easily detachable glandular resin heads, ideal for hashish production. These areas incorporate both rubbed, screened and pressed methods of hashish production.
Afghan hash, and the Indica strain for that matter, possess a much more sedative, dreamy, narcotic effect compared to the Sativa. This is true of the Afghan and Hindu Kush plants grown in the Pacific Northwest since 1978.
I believe more Indicas should be made into hashish, which is where the finer qualities of the Indica appear.
A quantity of Afghan seed was smuggled to the Emerald Triangle in 1978. Commercial production of the strain began shortly after that. There may have been earlier trials with Afghan seed in the region prior to 1978, but none ever made it to commercial production quantities or to public market.
Hawaiian a true classic. There is something special about a good island herb, and Hawaiian is among the best. When properly grown outdoors it has a wonderful and unique bouquet of fruity spice, similar to the sweetness of the fine Thai, but with a kind of tangy taste.
Good Hawaiian herb has always been a devastatingly powerful experience for me. It is very psychedelic and internally focused, contemplative and overpoweringly meditative. A Walk with the King, a Dance with the Queen, and a sunset on the beach! Aah... Hawaiian!
I have tried to equal the Hawaiian experience outdoor on the mainland, and indoors, with no success. Everything I have grown from Hawaiian stock turned out to be nowhere near the quality of the parent stock. This is true for three generations of trials. The product from Hawaiian seed was equal to the best plants grown from mid-quality Colombian stock!
This led me to a hypothesis about Hawaii: that just about any stock grown in Hawaii will turn out to be of unique and relatively high quality. Hawaii just happens to be one of those special places, I suppose.
All breeding attempts with Hawaiian stock were dumped from my garden by 1983. It was a pretty and robust plant though, and also quite productive. Just not all that impressive when grown outside its homeland.
Jamaican Lion's Herb
It has been on rare occasion that I have sampled truly enjoyable Jamaican herb. These rare samples came directly from friends who knew growers there. It was similar to the Hawaiian experience, but with more of a take-your-breath-away feeling of excitement.
The problem I have encountered with the commercial Jamaican is that it is too damned strong and speedy! Jamaican is renowned for its lively herb, for which I can vouch. It is a heartlifting herb and I have a sensitive heart. So I am careful with the samples of the commercial Jamaican ganja that I try.
Much like Hawaiian, the Jamaican strains are perhaps best expressed in their homeland, because I have had little success in producing an adequate example. Both indoors and out, the Jamaican behaves and ends up much the same as mid-level Colombian. Perhaps all Island herb is unique in this fashion.
Philippine Thrilla from Manilla.
The Philippines are another Island chain renowned for producing great herb. I once possessed a small quantity of what was supposed to be Philippine herb in the late 1970's. It had a strong citrus aroma that produced a spicy smoke and a heady high. I never grew the strain, so I have nothing to report on the plants. The herb was a light green Sativa and seeded, so hopefully someone has had experience with this strain.
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