What are Heirloom Strains?
What are heirloom strains? What does this term mean? Let's talk about it!
You know that distinct feeling of wearing an heirloom passed down from your parents or even great-great-grandparent? It comes with a sense of peace and purity that a regular, store-bought 24k just cannot provide. What if you were told you could have this unadulterated purity in your cannabis too? Heirloom strains of cannabis are becoming increasingly popular among consumers.
Heirloom strains of cannabis are those that have been passed down from one generation to the next. They are often considered the "purest" strains of cannabis, as they have not been modified or altered in any way. But there's still more to it so let's dive further into it!
What is heirloom cannabis?
Heirloom cannabis is a strain of the plant that has been carefully preserved and passed down from generation to generation. It's not just about preserving genetics but also keeping consistent cultivation practices to remain true to their original form. Heirloom strains are often sought for their potency, flavor, and effects.
Growing Heirloom Marijuana Strains
Heirloom cannabis strains are typically grown organically in natural environments. They are not subjected to genetic modification or breeding like many modern commercial strains. Cannabis breeders have preserved and protected these cultivars for decades through active human effort. Heirloom cultivars are almost exclusively grown through seeds passed down from one generation of dedicated farmers to the other.
Great care is taken to ensure that these seeds remain free of cross-pollination (a process where the pollen from one plant attaches itself to the reproductive part of the other, producing hybrid seeds).
Moreover, these strains are usually allowed to pollinate in vast open spaces where pollination occurs naturally via wind, birds, insects, and small animals carrying pollen on their body. Open pollination also necessitates that farmers designate certain growing spaces exclusively to heirloom cannabis, isolating them from any other strains. Heirloom varieties can be considered their exclusive species, separate and distinct from their commercial counterparts.
They are also kept as far from chemical fertilizers and pesticides as possible. The entire process of growing and harvesting a batch of heirloom cannabis strain is kept 100% natural to ensure that the end product is pure, clean, and as authentic as possible.
Terpenes, Cannabinoids and Heirloom Strains
The various cannabinoids and terpenes found in heirloom strains are often kept peculiar to them. This is because these cannabis varieties have been grown for so long with the same cultivation methods applied generation after generation, allowing certain genetic properties to remain intact throughout the ages.
This leads to heirloom strains having a unique smell, taste, and effects that are often quite different from their commercial counterparts. These qualities make them highly sought-after by consumers who look for cannabis with distinct characteristics.
Heirloom cannabis is an incredible resource for the future of cannabis. Cannabis breeders can preserve and protect these heirloom cultivars for decades, ensuring that the unique genetics of these cannabis strains remain intact and pure.
Heirloom vs. Landrace Cannabis Strains
Some people might confuse heirloom cannabis strains with landrace cannabis strains. While both have been passed down from one generation to the next, there are key differences between them.
Landrace cannabis strains are typically indigenous varieties adapted to their natural environment over time and centuries, while heirloom cultivars are more localized strains. Landrace strains occur naturally in the wild with no human intervention. They grow and evolve in a particular place because of the natural environment.
Several factors, such as the climate, topography, soil type and long-term weather patterns, work together for a landrace strain to thrive in a particular place. For instance, the Hindu Kush Mountain range in Afghanistan and Pakistan is one such place known to have a natural landrace strain.
On the other hand, heirloom strains are localized cannabis varieties that have been carefully passed down from farmer to farmer within a specific region.
Heirloom strains have been carefully selected and bred for decades to produce the desired traits. These strains may originate from a landrace strain or result from cross-breeding two different cannabis plants.
Landrace strains become heirloom strains once they are collected and grown elsewhere by weed farmers. In fact, most heirloom strains currently found in the U.S. were once African landrace strains and other equatorial regions such as Asia and South America. For example, the now famous Indica strain of cannabis is a landrace variety from Afghanistan and Northern India. Likewise, sativa is a landrace in Thailand and some of South America.
Heirloom vs. Hybrid strains
Heirloom marijuana strains are also distinct from hybrid cannabis strains. Hybrids are created when two different cannabis plants — typically Indica or Sativa — are cross-bred to create a plant with desired traits. Therefore, the difference is quite obvious between the two!
The Importance of Heirloom Strains
Climate change and an ever-growing demand for weed (caused partly by the rapid legalization of recreational marijuana across several U.S. states) have made it difficult for modern farmers to keep growing heirloom strains. As a result, these strains now need to be looked after closely to ensure they are provided with the climatic conditions necessary for their growth.
Heirloom strains can also take a while to fully bloom, unlike hybrids that are modified to grow extremely quickly to meet the rising demand for marijuana products. Despite these challenges, farmers continue cultivating and nurturing heirloom strains for several reasons.
Heirloom cannabis promotes resilience among crops
In a field occupied mostly by high-yield hybrids, heirloom cannabis can help farmers diversify their crops. This helps make the crops more resilient to pests, diseases, and unfavorable climatic conditions.
Cultivating a wide variety of crops all at once helps ensure that the soil is not drained of any particular type of nutrients and remains ideal for supporting the growth of at least a few strains all year round.
Heirloom cannabis is 100% organic
One of the most promising things about heirloom marijuana cultivation is that it is usually 100% organic. Heirloom strains are often kept away from all chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Instead, natural methods like crop rotation and herbal pesticides are used to ensure that the soil remains healthy and completely chemical-free.
This helps avoid contamination of the soil and the groundwater beneath it by chemicals that can adversely affect the natural environment and all the living beings that depend on it. In this way, heirloom strains play an important part in conserving the natural ecosystems they’re grown in.
Heirloom Cannabis is the only way to keep dying landrace varieties alive
As mentioned, natural environments worldwide are becoming inhospitable for the landrace strains they once nurtured. Destructive human activity like construction and mining combined with climate change threaten to wipe out several naturally occurring strains of the hemp plant.
The only viable way to keep these strains alive is to transport the seeds and keep cultivating them as heirloom strains in protected environments. Heirloom strains play a crucial role in maintaining the (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7148385/)world's natural biodiversity by single-handedly keeping several unique cannabis strains alive.
Benefits of Heirloom Cultivars
As if pure weed wasn't enough to make you understand how beneficial heirloom cultivation is, there are a few other notable benefits of growing heirloom varieties.
They have unadulterated genetics
Hybrid strains result from frequent cross-breeding between multiple varieties of the hemp plant. Each time a new variety is added to this gene pool, the number of dominant and recessive traits in play increases substantially. This can cause hybrid strains to have several unpredictable characteristics.
Heirloom cultivars have untouched genetics, which allows them to produce true-to-type offspring. Each of these plants has the same taste, color, and potency that connoisseurs often come to expect and enjoy.
Aside from this, the unadulterated genetics of heirloom cannabis strains makes them perfect for selective cross-breeding. Having a stable set of dominant and recessive traits make it easier for researchers to know which varieties should be cross-bred to enhance the required characteristics in the plant.
They are often culturally significant
Heirloom cannabis results from years of concentrated effort by dedicated farmers who often share a cultural and emotional connection with them. While they are akin to family jewels for some people, others value them because of their historical and cultural significance.
Take OG Kush and Bubba Kush, for instance; these timeless classics can be traced back millennia, helping to herald the production of outstanding products from a faraway corner of the world.
They make for better experiences
Hybrid varieties often have an unnatural ratio of cannabinoids (too high or too low CBD and THC content compared to other terpenes), which can take away from the experience of consuming weed. In addition, unpredictable compositions can also make these varieties ineffective as medicinal products.
Heirloom strains are the closest you can get to completely natural weed. They are known to have a much better THC/CBD ratio and are generally considered better for consumption.
Classic Heirloom Strains: The Predecessors
Here are some of the world’s most famous heirloom strains and their landrace predecessors:
Acapulco Gold is a pure Cannabis Sativa strain famous for its beautiful brownish-gold bud and ‘mind-blowing’ psychoactive effects. The strain was first introduced to the U.S. in the early 1960s and soon became a cultural icon of the counterculture movement of the 60s. Acapulco Gold can be traced back to the Guerrero Mountains outside of Acapulco, Mexico, where it originally grew as a landrace variety.
Panama Red is another pop-culture favorite mentioned in several TV shows and films, including 2020’s Trailer Park Boys: The Animated Series and 2000’s Meet The Parents. Like Acapulco Gold, Panama Red or P.R. is the most famous for its unique clay-red bud and high THC content. Panama Red can be traced back to Pearl Islands in Panama, where they are no longer naturally cultivated due to climatic and political reasons.
Purple Kush is a pure Indica strain that first became popular in Oakland, California. The strain is famous for its beautiful purple buds, largely considered the best-looking bud. Purple Kush was born due to cross-breeding between the landrace variety of cannabis Indica found in India and the Purple Afghani from Afghanistan.
One of our best-selling heirloom flowers, the Orange-Kush Cake, is also a Hindu-Kush hybrid that has been crossed and cultivated in the U.S. for many decades!
As you can see, heirloom strains are not just cannabis varieties that have been around for a long time. They are also the genetic backbone of many of today's hybrid strains, helping to keep the legacy of landrace varieties alive and providing connoisseurs with genuinely unique experiences.
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