Is there a “first” strain of weed, one that appeared before any others? At this point in its history, marijuana strains have been cross-bred so many times it’s nearly impossible to trace their exact genetic path. This is a good thing, as it allows us to enjoy a seemingly endless variety of strains for any medical or recreational needs. You can, of course, use Phylos to get an idea of the big picture but there’s something about landrace strains that assert an aura of importance.
“Landrace”, with respect to weed, is a term that means the species of cannabis has evolved for many years in an isolated and specific geographic environment. Scientists and cannabis enthusiasts value these strains because they contain unique, unbothered and characteristic genetics. The plant has been left to its own cultivation. One of the oldest of these landrace strains, and the oldest cannabis species (known to man) is the Afghan Kush plant, a name you’ve probably heard without realizing how central it is to the plant’s evolution and development.
Drawing its name from the Hindu Kush mountains in northeastern Afghanistan where it was cultivated to make hash, the Afghan Kush plant is thought to be hundreds, if not thousands, of years old. Western travellers encountered the strain on their hikes of the “Hippie Trail” that stretched from Europe to India in the 1960s, but the Kush was grown for generations before that. The people of that region harvested the wildflowers because of their high resin content. This allowed them to press some of the best hash the world has ever known, another reason the Kush mountains are important to cannabis history. Of course, seeds were eventually smuggled back to North America where they went through profuse cross-breeding and name changes, which gave it a complex oral history that makes it hard to pin down the plant’s evolution. Eventually, that brought us to today, where Kush became a colloquial shorthand for good weed of any variety in the last forty years.
We must be specific here though. Kush, strictly speaking, refers to the plants of the Hindu Kush and their numerous offspring, many of which are parent or grandparent strains of your favourite bud today. What made this strain distinct and gave it worldwide recognition? As mentioned above, anyone who looked at the plant saw the resin trichomes practically fall off when it was picked. This, coupled with its pungent, earthy, skunky smell, let travellers know this was prime bud they’d stumbled on. It also produced greater yields than the sweet-smelling sinsemilla plants that were being grown in Mexico and South America. It also seemed to be more resistant to mould and pests. A win for growers and consumers.
Today those traits still exist in the Kush varieties you can pick up at any dispensary. You’ll notice it instantly with its soft green colour that’s masked by thick, orange hairs. The Afghan Kush plant and buds smell like a mango orange farm with a hint of funk… probably something like the basement you used to sneak drinks in as a teenager. Since it’s an indica, almost 100%, you get the unfettered punch you’d expect. This can cause that stereotypical stoner feeling of laziness or sleepiness, which is why most people look to it at the end of a long day. There’s a euphoria that comes with those heavy Indicas, so we’re sure you won’t mind it. You’re probably going to be hungry too, so keep some snacks close by. Because of all this, it’s quite a beneficial strain for medical patients, good for treating insomnia, stress and anxiety, as well as debilitating chronic pain. Sure it might be difficult to find a pure Afghan Kush strain anymore, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the hunt. If nothing else, now you know the history of this classic landrace strain and can help us keep the underground history of weed alive and well.
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