Cannabis cultivars to put in your rotation.
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Smoking the world’s best weed with purpose and discipline to write about it is as much fun as it is challenging. With Bud Break, I hope to unravel some of the mystery around how cannabis cultivars are born and provide a space for the incredible flowers that make it my way to bloom further.
When it comes to the broad aromas cannabis can produce, this one comes off as almost unnatural. This weed will bring some of us back to Saturday morning cartoons eating bowls of the stuff Toucan Sam was slanging—a cereal so artificial it stained the milk and couldn’t be called Fruit Loops because it contains zero fruit. Mom’s Weed gives off a similar bold blend of citrus and berries. Its aroma is intoxicating, and the terpene trip it takes you on is a vacation in a bag into the ancient redwood forests of Northern California, sweet orange blossoms backed with the wet woodsy scents emanating off of fern-filled sun-speckled groves.
Mom’s Weed might taste familiar if you’ve been smoking weed for a while. Its genetics are from before Zkittlez and its progeny dominated our fruit-forward taste buds in cannabis. Its lineage contains the same strain that Johnny Casali of Huckleberry Hill Farms blends with all his cannabis crosses, Paradise Punch. The one that his mother, Marlene Farrell, taught him to grow when he was 10 years old on the same Humboldt County, California farm where he lives today. Paradise Punch (originally called Fruit Loops) is a Blueberry Kush x Lavender Berry that Farrell created with her best friend in 1978.
Mom’s Weed is a Paradise Punch and Lemon OG cross Casili first released in 2020. Its sister strain—another phenotype of the same cross called Whitethorn Rose, first released in 2019—has won many accolades, most notably as a concentrate. By looks, Whitethorn Rose is a more purple expression of Mom’s Weed, which is army green with streaks of lavender.
The sungrown buds I received from Moon Made Farms in Southern Humboldt brought out a productive bright stone that pulled me through the morning fog and into the afternoon sunshine.
Casili told me he just couldn’t let Mom’s Weed go, and once he found it, he dug up the plant after harvest and revegged it to ensure the genetics were preserved.
“Our cultivars are really an attribute to what so many of the Emerald Triangle farmers are doing; they’re sharing their family legacy genetics,” he says.
“It was just a pleasure to cultivate. It was consistent and resilient and hearty and, the nose on it, absolutely gorgeous,” Gordon says. “The purple tones come out as soon as the cool weather hits, and really, from the time they were little sprouts, they were a pleasure to work with.”
Gordon says all the genetics she’s grown from Huckleberry Hills have been vigorous early finishers with a “bold essence.”
Pink Zaza (Zazai)
Pink Zaza cultivated by SOG Army Photo / Courtesy SOG Army
Pink Zaza, bred by Crane City Cannabis, is a cross of the breeder’s ZR3 x Dweebz and a deserving entry to the ever-expanding Z terps family.
“It’s an amazing plant,” says SOG Army cultivator BJ Hughes. “It grows very well and clones very well. It stretches a lot, provides a lot of branches, and has a very low leaf-to-flower ratio; there’s way less leaf than there is flower.”
The lineage of this cultivar is sometimes inaccurately attributed as Pink Runtz x Georgia Pie. That’s because when Hughes got it from the breeder he frequently collaborates with, it was labeled Zazai, but he says the “i” part got ripped off the name written on tape attached to the seed pack, and by the time he figured out the mistake he had already had success with its release as “Pink Zaza” with lineage he sourced online.
Grown by Santa Rosa, California-based SOG Army Pink Zaza is a tightly-trimmed dense indoor bud, sufficiently dusted with trichomes and a Prince-worthy purple-colored veil. Think bubble gum cigarettes and Big League Chew. This cultivar reeks like adult-themed candy. The aroma and taste of Pink Zaza—grown in one plant per foot in 1-gallon pots of coco coir in the Sea of Green style under both HPS and LED lights—is a confection in the form of cannabis flower. The selection is the result of popping 25 seeds that produced 15 different versions.
“The keeper was a standout and was really easy to pick,” Hughes says. “It’s one of the most special plants we’ve found in a couple years.”
“I do not sniff the coke. I only smoke sensimilla.” With this strain’s name, you might expect Fish Scale to be a stimulant, but instead, it results in a calming stone set off by heady aromas of ammonia. A combination of Gelatti with The Menthol, Fish Scale is a collaboration between Compound Genetics and Cookies released in 2020.
On 4/20, this cultivar climbed to the crest of Hippie Hill with a second-place win at the King of Z Hill competition held in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. That community-judged result was surprising, considering Fish Scale contains no fruity Z terps. The winning selection was grown by Oakland, California-based Flora & Flame via a tissue culture clone that came to them courtesy of the connection between their lab partner DSG Labs and Compound’s former breeder Chris Lynch.
The buds on the Flora & Flame Fish Scale are a deep purple over a sage green, but the abundant trichome coverage on the flowers makes them head stash quality. Flora & Flame grows in organic living soil using LED lights.
“It wasn’t short and bushy. It was kind of a medium-sized plant with fairly good sized colas—not super dense—and a medium yield,” says Chris Castle, co-owner of Flora & Flame.
Daniel Adler-Golden, a co-founder of Compound’s genetic partner Node Labs, notes Fish Scale doesn’t do well in the high light intensity of the modern growth environment and prefers low light intensity.
“It’s best done by craft cultivators who can really take the time to get the best expression,” he says.
Jelly Donutz, bred by Humboldt Seed Company (HSC), represents the result of an extensive phenohunt and combines the popular Runtz strain with HSC’s Hella Jelly. The nose on this cultivar reflects its name, sweet fried dough cut with a mixed berry jam. Tasting like sweet fry bread eaten in a gas station parking lot Jelly Donutz leads to a potent stone. No kidding, this one made me stop writing and phone a friend.
After Ridgeline Runtz won the 2019 Emerald Cup, the cultivar had a hype machine behind it that led to many imposters, Humboldt’s CEO Nat Pennington says in explaining how his final choice was selected from Ridgeline’s White Runtz genetics after a hunt through 49 other versions of the same strain. As co-head of the seed company Pennington has many different “chambers (!)” for testing strains and calls this one a “rainy day cross” that started by throwing the Runtz pollen in six separate chambers of Hella Jelly.
Stabilizing the genetics to produce homogenous seeds required two reversals (a breeding term for reversing the sex of female flowers into males that become pollen donors) and growing the plants on four separate partner farms. Out of a population of 840, the team selected two versions, one for HSC and one for one of the cultivators it partnered with for the phenohunt, Casa Flor, an outdoor and light deprivation farm in Willits, California.
“It’s really vigorous because it still has heterosis or hybrid vigor,” Pennington says of the strain with a hint of gas and sour candy. “It turns into a beautiful round tree.”
Released as seeds in December 2022, Casa Flor’s Lou Robles thinks the cultivar has legs. Casa Flor has already got the genetics into the hands of rapper Baby Bash (“Sugar, sugar, how’d you get so fly?”) who is putting it on the market as Berry Wave pre-rolls.
Cashing the Bowl: Watermelon Slush
Jelly Donutz / Courtesy Humboldt Seed Co.
The two phenotypic expressions of Watermelon Slush grown by Sense cannabis that made it my way proved too good to be true. With an aroma of watermelon Bubble Yum and ripe strawberries, Watermelon Slush is a phenomenal smoke that tastes like watermelon-flavored shisha from a hookah. Unfortunately, neither sample tested high enough in THC for Sense to put the strain out on the market.
A cross of Watermelon Zkittlez and Spanish Moon, Watermelon Slush was released as a feminized seed by Lovin’ in Her Eyes in late December 2021. Beth, the Colorado-based breeder behind Lovin’ in Her Eyes, created the strain with a female plant she found in a pack of Ethos Genetics’s Watermelon Zkittlez that she pollinated with her Spanish Moon.
Watermelon Slush was one of her first seed releases and sold out quickly. Beth says this rare “one-time creation” grows short and bushy with “a drier style resin that has outstanding contrast against the purple-colored leaves.”
Steve Griffith, CEO at San Francisco, California-based Sense, says he thought the strain had promise because it could carry over its intense berry and melon scents into the taste of the smoke. Moneymaker, a cultivar by Exotic Genetix that combines Jigglers and Baker’s Dozen, proved to be a winner for Sense that they are putting out now. Moneymaker goes in a different direction on the wheel of cannabis tastes and scents, firmly resting in the fuel category and dipping into dessert.