Resin-covered mature bract of a Kush variety Photo by Mel Frank
A detailed look at the history, evolution and challenges surrounding these popular varieties.
Our history of “Kush” begins in the rugged Hindu Kush Mountains of northeastern Afghanistan, homeland of the world’s finest hashish. Legendary Afghan “Primo” was created by sieving crushed dry cannabis flowers—a technique well-adapted to the arid and often cold climates along the temperate southwestern fringe of Central Asia. During the 1960s and ’70s, many adventurous wanderers passed through Afghanistan as they followed the “Hippie Trail” from Europe to India. By the time Westerners reached the region, landrace hashish varieties had been grown and processed with traditional techniques for generations, and both the farmers and their crops were well adapted to the arid, alpine conditions.
Travelers familiar with cannabis plants growing in other regions soon realized that the Afghan varieties looked different: shorter plants with broad, dark green leaflets and stout branches supporting denser and leafier inflorescences covered with copious resin glands that sparkled in the intense sunlight. Most significantly, the aromas and flavors of Afghan hashish flowers were of an entirely different spectrum—more resinous, earthy, dank and skunky smelling when compared to the more herbal, spicy, flowery and fruity aromas 1970s sinsemilla marijuana smokers were learning to relish—and varieties from the Hindu Kush formed a class by themselves.
Coming to North America
From the late 1960s into the early ’80s, travelers and smugglers brought seeds of this amazing new “hash plant” home, and the first domestically grown Afghan cannabis sprang up in Western gardens. These early home growers were already familiar with New World landrace varieties such as Colombian, Jamaican and Mexican, along with Old World Indian, Nepali, Thai and even African. The biodiversity of introduced landraces was at its zenith.
These traditional sinsemilla varieties were imported from sub-tropical latitudes, and most matured later in autumn than was practical across much of temperate North America; many plants succumbed to winter frosts before they could fully mature. All these early sinsemilla landraces shared the common traits of taller growth with narrow, light- to medium-green leaflets spaced along longer branches with lax inflorescences (within which resin gland production was largely limited to the flower bracts, rather than being shared by the small leaflets). These early narrow-leaflet landraces produced an array of fragrances and flavors that enhanced and modified a comparably diverse array of enjoyable and potentially therapeutic effects. But, they often produced only small amounts of potent flowers.
By the early 1970s, crosses between these imported landraces had begun to yield improved narrow-leaflet hybrid varieties grown from seed that had larger and more potent flowers than their predecessors. These gained popularity quickly, and by the end of the decade, potent and flavorful narrow-leaflet hybrids like “Original Haze” and “Kona Gold” had become legendary in their own right.
Most early domestic Afghan growers kept their coveted “hash plant” seeds close to home, but eventually the seeds were spread far and wide. By the late 1970s, they were rapidly gaining popularity in isolated regions across North America. Afghan landraces expressed several key agronomic traits that were advantageous to prohibition-era outdoor sinsemilla growers. The most economically favorable traits included short stature, early maturation and enhanced resin gland production. Hybrids between the recently introduced Afghan varieties and the wide range of extant narrow-leaflet landraces produced some spectacular results. Earlier-maturing, vigorous plants yielded heaps of dense, pungent and potent flowers. What more could a grower want?
OG Kush Origins
Privacy and security, that’s what. As the war on drugs heated up, growers sought refuge indoors under lights. Traditional, later-maturing, tall and sparse narrow-leaflet sinsemilla varieties proved challenging to grow indoors, and shorter, faster-maturing hashish plants with dense flowers offered a seemingly perfect solution. Hashish x sinsemilla hybrids, paired with high-intensity lighting, became the unstoppable force that spread urban cannabis cultivation worldwide. This is where the modern “OG Kush” story begins.
The “OG Kush” lineage is a product of prohibition-era indoor cultivation. In the 1990s, Florida resident Matt “Bubba” Berger grew a “Northern Lights” cutting he would later dub “Bubba” after the term of endearment bestowed upon him by his grandmother. Berger also acquired a local Floridian favorite known as “Krippy” or “Supernaut” from local grower Alec Anderson. As the story goes, “Krippy” was renamed “Kush” after a friend of Berger’s claimed the dense, colorful, round buds looked like something he called “Kush Berries” with no apparent knowledge of the important impact of Hindu Kush landraces on traditional sinsemilla varieties. And, it is entirely possible that the name “Kush” was subconsciously associated with cannabis. Most likely, the “Northern Lights”-based variety “Bubba” parent was more closely related to a true Afghan Hindu Kush landrace than what would eventually become the famous “OG Kush” clonal variety.
For years, “Kush” remained a well-kept secret shared within an insular community of Florida growers. It did not gain its now-international fame until it was smuggled to Los Angeles and placed in the hands of Josh D, whose name has become synonymous with the modern-day “OG Kush” clone. Josh D became the guiding force who ultimately perfected the cultivation techniques required to grow this agronomically challenging plant. “OG Kush” is not an easy plant to grow: It is sensitive to light and nutrient levels, susceptible to pests and when stressed, produces a few male flowers and accidental seeds. Josh D shared cuttings and knowledge with numerous friends and growers who would eventually spread “OG Kush” cuttings around the world.
Published: May 01, 2020
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News