KUSH genetic origins and history


KUSH. An illustrious family of noble ancestry and the category of legend

Before deepening into this subject, it is important to know a little bit about the social and cultural circumstances of the age on which the kush strains began to be popular among the growers. It was the hippie era, whose doctrine was known as “the counterculture”. In the mid –sixties of the past century, the social and economic circumstances of west Europe and some states of USA (mostly California) changed a lot which affected every aspect of daily life. The countries experiment a great  economical resurgence.

Once World War II is over, Europe and North America began to rebuild their countries. This means an important financial movement. On top of it, after this war, USA gets involved in the Korea war, and later on Vietnan: a conflict that occurred at thousands of kilometers away from their homeland and that nobody recognized as their problem. It is in these circumstances when the hippie era was born.

Many young men began to feel the need of knowing other cultures and places. For the first time in history the tourism becomes popular and thousands of young Europeans and Americans leave their homes to travel around the world; specially exotic and distant countries.

Precisely in these years, the famous writer (considered the first hippie) Jack Kerouack wrote his first book , “The road”, on which he expressed the feeling of traveling like a way to experiment new and interesting emotions.  Of course, he began to write about  his “trips” with marijuana, which contributed a lot to let the people discover this product. So far, marihuana was a “poison”, an evil drug, used by negroes who played jazz music. The youth was about to change their way of thinking very soon.

Under those specific circumstances, a little project was born: the Magic Bus.  The Magic Bus was just that, a bus, that started the travel in Amsterdam and went overland till India and Nepal. The mythical British band “The Who” launched an album, called precisely “The Magic Bus”, which contributed massively to promote the interest of many young men to travel to exotic lands and try marijuana as a method to open the doors of perception. For many people this was the great adventure of their lives. To reach India, the Magic Bus had to cross many countries and, above all, the Hindu Kush mountains.

And in fact, the bus continued operating until 1976, when the war between USSR and Afghanistan began and many local thieves  started to assault the buses. It was not a safe way to travel anymore and the company stopped. But that old bus was intended to start a legend: the Kush genetic.

The Hindu Kush is a mountain range in Asia, that is located at the west of the Himalayas mountains. It is longer than 1000 kilometers and occupies many countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, Tayikistan, India, old Turkestan and others. These mountains, of sober and arid beauty, can reach 8000 meters in height in their highest peaks. And precisely in the valleys placed between these peaks is where the Kush variety thrives. These valleys can be higher than 3000 meters height and, obviously, the nights are quite cold.

Across the Hindu Kush we can find the old silk route and other old paths that were the only way to communicate Middle East with Middle Asia and Far East. Centuries ago, Marco Polo crossed these mountains. During the hippie age, thousands of young western men did the same. And, therefore, they discovered the famous “hashplants” : the Kush varieties.    

For hundreds of years, if not more, the pastuns tribes were dedicated to cultivate cannabis. This was due to different reasons: playful, medical and commercial. The hash they obtained was considered black gold. And it has continued being like this until the USSR invasion of Afghanistan. The pastuns realized it was much more profitable to cultivate papaver somnifera (opium) instead of cannabis. Papaver somnifera needs no extra nutrients and it takes a much shorter period of time to get a harvest. And the final price of the product, one it has been turned into heroin, is much higher.

In fact, the area between the old Turkestan and  the Hindu Kush is the original place where the Cannabis Indica SSP Afghanica was born. This strain is what we know as Kush genetic. However, this phenomenon didn’t happen from one day to another.  In fact, the pastuns needed certain time to “tame” the wild cannabis plants in order to get a better strain for the extraction of its resin. What we call hash. Because hash is the purest and most psychoactive part of cannabis plants. Moreover it is easier to  transport and sale than the flowers.

Those Magic Bus travelers were very impressed by the quality of that resin. But don’t think this surprise was due to the lack of comparative criteria. Because the marijuana available in those days in cities like San Francisco, was a real wonder. I am talking about the real Colombia Gold, the real Acapulco Gold, the Thai Stick and others. I remember you couldn’t have more than a couple of drags to get extremely high. Indeed, those travelers from the Magic Bus found out the super quality of the afghan resin. I was fortunate enough to try it and it was a real Cannabis Queen.

During the sixties and early seventies, some American travelers started to bring back home the seeds and eventually cuttings from the afghan strains. As I wrote before, until that moment, the only marijuana available came from tropical countries and it was sativa.

The hybridization between those sativa and the afghan kush  strains was a turning point. The indoor cultures were starting to win adepts at the same time. These two factors together meant  an incredible progress for the breeders who wanted to enjoy sativa plants but without the need of such enormous flowering periods. Thanks to this, those breeders got two possibilities of enormous importance. They could shorten the flowering periods of the sativa genetics. And they could cultivate the afghan cannabis indica ssp afghanica.  Some breeders cultivated this afghan strain for their flowers. But most of them did it in order to extract the resin and obtain the best hash ever. Don’t forget the kush varieties were named “hashplants” in the Hindu Kush.

But we must go back in time to explain the origin of the genotype known as Kush (hasplant). We know they are squat and short plants (typical indica), and their leaves are big and with fat leaflets. We have already said they were a subspecies named Cannabis indica ssp Afghanica. And we also explained that the pastun growers needed to “tame” the wild plants in order to obtain this subspecies. Because, in the beginning, the plants used to get hash were those coming from  strains of the old Turkestan. These plants were biotypes of thin leaves and quite tall in height. The famous botanic Vavilox called them sativa. In fact, this biotype of cannabis thrives in the North of India and the farmers use it to get charas. Charas is resin too. But its quality is inferior because of the method used to extract the resin. It is less pure than the hash that comes from the Kush plants. Its name is Cannabis Indica SSP Sativa and until the beginning of the thirties was cultivated in the North of Afghanistan too. I personally spent some time in Manalli (North of India) making charas with the farmers. It is excellent, but nothing to do with the Kush.

The pastuns farmers simply compared both genetic: the one that was originally cultivated in the old Turkestan and the wild bushes that thrived in the arid and dry steppes of Afghanistan. And the winner was the wild strain: the Cannabis Indica SSP Afghanica.

The biotype Cannabis Indica SSP Afghanica thrived only in the shores of the river Chitral. Therefore, those illiterate farmers began the hybridization of what we know today as Kush genetic. They were the breeders who hybridized the plants of thin leaves with the wild ones of fat leaves and plenty of resin. Toward the seventies, almost all the plants available there were of fat leaves. But I must insist: it took time to change the situation. The Hindu Kush has thousands of kilometers and therefore the effort and time invested was remarkable.

Three varieties of cannabis with KUSH genetics from KETAMA SEEDS

KETAMA KUSH        CRITIKUSH       CREATION      

Characteristics of the Kush

They are perfectly adapted to its place of origin. And, of course, they are one of the best choices to extract the resin of its flowers. They endure the drought very well and all kind of environmental inclement weather except for the high levels of humidity. They are acclimated (at least their purest version) to arid places where the rainfall is limited and the winds are dry. These circumstances could dehydrate most of other genetic. They endure equally hot days followed by cold nights.

Their morphology is columnar because, even though they branch abundantly, the branches have a short angle with the main stem . Sometimes they seem to be tight to it.

The intermodal distance is short and the stems are quite big and steady. The leaves are fat and fleshy. And they have large leaflets. The flowers are very compact and the chalices are full of sticky resin. In fact, the whole plant seems to sweat resin. Just because this factor they are the best option extract hash. The abundance of resin occurs not only in the flowers. The surrounding leaves  are full of white crystals too. If you use a good magnifying glass, you will get shocked by the enormous head of the tricomes.

These heads are resolved very easily, no matters the system you use for the extraction. Even though the flowers are excellent by themselves, in fact their best quality is the facility to extract the resin. It is clearly appreciated the selection task done for many years. The pastun farmers have demostrated  to be excellent breeders, which is quite remarkable considering they are illiterate. This is due to economic factors and a deep knowledge of their environment.     

In fact, thanks to this selection made by human beings, plus the arid zone and dry weather of their origin places, the flowers are so compact. These flowers would be an easy prey for moisture fungi like botrytis.

They have a rapid flowering period and are short in height. Considering the canopy of any plant ( cannabis or any other) is like a mirror of its root system, we can deduct Kush strains have few but strong roots. Therefore, the growth of the plant stops immediately once it begins the flowering period. Because of this factor, it is advisable to cultivate them leaving a large space between each plant. This way the plants can develop a good root system without finding many problems.

Even though their size isn’t specially large, because of its incomparable quantity of resin and the compaction of the flowers, the final production is the same we can get with others larger plants.

Returning to the factor of their short flowering period, this genetics is ideal for potential hybridizations with other strains to which the cold weather and humidity could affect very negatively.

It is important to highlight their effect, which is quite narcotic. Because of this, the Kush are excellent for medical purposes. Specially for those who, like me, are affected by stress and insomnia. This feature is transmitted to later hybrids. If you are looking for more dynamic effect, maybe this is not the strain to choose from.

Usually, their flowers have purple or blue tones and are particularly beautiful. This phenomenon increases as the harvest approaches. And above all, this happens when the days become colder. Some flowers, once they dry, seem to be completely black, which is quite exotic and shocking. This fact is due mostly to certain nutritional deficiencies that appear at the end of their lives. But it also is a consequence of certain flavonoids that are showed when the chlorophyll degrades in autumn.

Organoleptic properties of the KUSH

 No doubt it is a sweet smelling plant. And the taste is the same. However, it never becomes cloying. Among their more remarkable nuances we could highlight the delicate taste of red fruits like cranberries, wild berries and strawberries. And all these tastes include a touch of lemon thyme.

Some cultivars have a subtle taste of coffee. And all its biotypes and phenotypes have the unmistakable earthy taste of the strains which origin comes from arid and dry areas. Definitety, we can say the Kush have some of the most wanted organoleptic properties. And, on top of it, they have a formidable psychoactive and medical effect.

Most of the growers cultivate cannabis for its psychoactive properties. However there are other types who, like me, find in their cultures a remedy against the stress and a therapy. The beauty of these plants is very gratifying. And it happens the same with the organoleptic properties. Those who only care about the “high” don’t care about these factors. It is a pity because the pleasure of inhaling a drag of a plant, cultivated by yourself in a totally organic way, and whose fragrance is a “delicatessen” , is a blessing of mother nature. It is the way the plant uses to thank you for the cares and efforts you spent during all its life.

The pastuns are fierce warriors to whom it does not matter to kill a human being. But I personally have seen quite a few absolutely in ecstasy with the fragrance and beauty of their plants. Nobody knows exactly when the pastun managed to obtain their fantastic Kush. It may be a question of decades or centuries. Perhaps thousands of years. Who knows? And actually, since we started to hybridize them in the western countries, is possible to have lost the original genetics. But, in any case, the name Kush is a rancid ancestry that belongs to the highest cannabis aristocracy. Across a long trip, from the deep valleys of the Hindu Kush to the sunny California, traveling in an old and magic bus, almost half a century ago, the legend Kush was born.

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