Growing Cannabis For Food? Think Organically!
Ever taken a giant juicy bite out of a fresh ripening cola? Me neither, but I’ve been tempted! Cannabis, just like all of our favorite fruits and vegetables, has an incredible number of antioxidants, flavors and nutritional minerals. If it’s so healthy, why don’t we see cannabis next to our lettuce or bok choi? And if we’re going to eat it, should it be grown differently?
Before we can begin the eating cannabis conversation, we should first discuss the benefits of doing so. It’s easy to throw around words like antioxidants and vitamins, but do we really know their role in our bodies? Or for that matter, how they’re developed in plants?
Without overcomplicating things, antioxidants come in many different forms naturally. The deep color of blueberries and garnet hue of raspberries are from antioxidants called flavonoids, and the wonderful aromas of flowers and cannabis are from terpenes. Because our body is constantly enduring stressors such as exercise, poor diet and daily life in general, free radicals are released in the body that can cause cancers and other illnesses. Antioxidants fight these off. So we obviously want to take in lots of antioxidants!
As we’ve all experienced, not all cannabis is equal just as not all blueberries are equal. That’s because how it’s grown makes a drastic difference in the outcome, and those flavors and colors correlate directly to how antioxidant-rich it is. Shamefully, our nutritional stamps on food show vitamin and mineral counts but no antioxidant reports. With a little understanding of how plants produce antioxidants, you can grow the most flavorful—and healthy—cannabis and produce.
Now, this may not shock you, but after all the propaganda about organic food not being any different…they lied. It’s distinctly different in the amount of antioxidants produced as well as the level of heavy metals present. A study published by the British Journal of Nutrition revealed facts that had been hidden in previous testing results. Led by Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, the study demonstrated how organic vegetables, in comparison to non-organic, had up to 69 percent more of certain antioxidants, anthocyanins and flavonols, as well as significantly lower levels of the toxic heavy metal, cadmium. That means more of the cancer fighters and less of the cause. Sounds pretty good to me.
“Cannabis, just like all of our favorite fruits and vegetables, has an incredible number of antioxidants, flavors and nutritional minerals. If it’s so healthy, why don’t we see cannabis next to our lettuce or bok choi?”
This same approach to growing effects cannabis too. There is a reason many smokers report an earthier, more full or complex aroma and smoke from organic-grown cannabis. Quite literally, there is more complexity to the existing terpenes, flavonoids and organic compounds created while growing. This is not to say it’s a better product, but when considering it as a food, it’s far superior.
I believe plants are able to produce more antioxidants and fuller flavor in an organic environment because of the nutritional complexity and availability. With agro-chemical fertilization, the ratios and quantities of what nutrients are delivered to the plant are exact but limited in their ingredient complexity—almost like force-feeding a meal replacement shake. In an organic feeding regimen, the plant has access to many different types or sources of a nutrient as well as other organic compounds. While absorbing the standard NPK and micronutrient requirements, the plant is also absorbing other organic compounds that can change the flavor, smell and even color of your plants.
If you’re growing cannabis for food, you want it to taste good! If you want it to taste good, it needs to be organic. For the home medical patient or grower, you’ll get your best starter results with bottled organic nutrients and soil. Don’t go digging yet, you’ll need proper potting soil to make sure the plant is fed correctly. Most bagged organic blends have what you need, the key is buying “potting” soil for the drainage. Look for products that are OMRI-listed and follow their feeding regimen. Learning to balance soil pH, watering and environmental controls should be your focus.
If you’re already familiar with basic gardening, look into compost tea and living soil organic models. The further you’re able to move from bottled products, the more native or unique your final product will taste. At the heart of organic farming is realizing that both the plant and the soil are alive. The main problems with agro-chemical fertilization, and the reason it reduces the complexity of soil, are its effects on the soil biology. Naturally, plants feed through the soil via bacterial and fungal interactions with decaying matter. Agro-chemicals kill or disrupt these organisms and their environment, off-setting the ability for plants to take up nutrients from the soil rather than the fed nutrients. In organic farming, the idea is to nurture and feed the soil to feed the plant.
Growing at home is always a lot of fun and the added benefit of feeding yourself something healthy never hurts. What many don’t realize are that cannabinoids; THC and CBD are potent antioxidants all on their own. Combining cannabinoids with the already potent antioxidants produced in other foods makes cannabis one of the most powerful superfoods available. While it may not end up on grocery shelves anytime soon, you can give yourself a much better version at home.
Also published on Medium.