Food & Cannabis – WHY NOT? Guest article by Louise McMullen
This article is about using cannabis in the kitchen. To begin my research I decided to look at the OCS.ca website (the Ontario Cannabis Store at https://ocs.ca). This is the government website where people who live in Ontario have to go to order cannabis legally. I was extremely surprised how descriptions of available the strains were given. They were almost like fine wine descriptions. For example, there is a strain available called “White Widow and to the right of the picture is written, “White Widow by Redecan is a sativa-dominant hybrid with a citrus and peppery scent accompanied by a slight lemon aftertaste....”
These descriptions made me think that cooking with cannabis can be similar to cooking with wines. Different wines enhance the flavours of the dish as do different strains of cannabis. My suggestion would be to have a ‘tasting’ with your friends, keep notes, have a list of descriptive words used for tasting the terpenes of different strains of cannabis just like you’d note the flavour characteristics of wine. What are terpenes?
Terpenes are the fragrant oils that give plants like cannabis a diversity of aromas. There are hundreds of strains of cannabis available and, in fact, you can find that there are over 100 terpenes found in cannabis plants. Leafly lists 8 in a Chart under their Most Common Cannabis Terpenes but Greencamp lists 15 on their website.
Myrcene is the most abundant terpene in cannabis and the smell is often considered earthy, with musky notes, resembling cloves. Also, it has a fruity, red grape-like aroma and strains that are rich in myrcene are Skunk XL, White Widow, and Special Kush.
Another common terpene found in cannabis is Limonene that is the second most abundant terpene in all cannabis strains, but not all strains necessarily have it. Limonene gives strains a citrusy smell that resembles lemons, which is no surprise as all citrus fruits contain large amounts of this compound.
Linalool is the terpene most responsible for the recognizable marijuana smell with its spicy and floral notes. Linalool is also found in lavender, mint, cinnamon and coriander. Some well-known linalool strains are Amnesia Haze, Special Kush, Lavender, LA Confidential, and OG Shark.
Once you have established the specific terpenes in a strain of cannabis you can look at the flavour wheel at to see how to pair your butter, oil, milk, or whatever you have infused with the strain of cannabis you are using with certain foods. When using a strain of cannabis that has a lavender terpene it would probably be best to find a recipe that has lavender as part of the ingredient.
As another example, Beta-Caryophyllene is a terpene that is said to have a pepper, spicy, woody, cloves aroma – so if one were so inclined to make a puttanesca or “pottanesca” sauce it would probably be best to find a cannabis strain that has Beta-Caryophyllene terpenes. But if you were cooking with mushrooms, then Humulene terpenes that have a hoppy, woody, or earthy aroma would probably be the best choice to infuse the butter you are using for sautéing your mushrooms or the sauce you are making.
To read more about terpenes visit Leafly.ca.
There are things that can be made so that you get the effects of THC through ingestion without having any of the cannabis flavour. Personally I think that there can be some really creative ways to cook with cannabis and avoid being repelled by the terpenes like myrcene that may, to many, have an unfavourable flavour.
The Canadian government has said that it will make food items infused with THC (also known as ‘edibles’) legal a year from October 17th, 2018. The legislation is still being worked on and will probably keep changing from what is currently being considered. I wonder what types of edibles will be offered, if any. Will it just be munchie-type foods? Baked goods, mass made like those you buy in a box at the supermarket? Or will they be gourmet, bakery quality or even a larger range? And, what about restaurants?
It will be interesting to see what the legalization of edibles will bring Ontarions in 2019. We will have to wait and see. But there is lots of potential for creative chefs down the road!