Cultivators are always looking for ways to maximise the utility of every single part of the cannabis plant. This includes utilising trim for various purposes, which ultimately involves extracting cannabinoids for consumption. But there are parts of the cannabis plant that fall in a grey area of whether they should be considered trim or smokable. These are the sugar leaves.

You might not know what they are by name, but you've certainly seen them on your cannabis plants! Some growers trim them completely from the buds, but others will just leave them on for reasons you'll soon understand. Let's get a better sense of what sugar leaves are, and what they’re used for.

WHAT THEY ARE

Sugar leaves are small leaves that grow out of your buds. They aren’t the large fan leaves you see protruding from branches on the plant. These can be easily distinguished. For starters, you’ll most likely be able to locate the stems of your fans leaves. Sugar leaves, however, are more hidden, with only their tips peaking through. The title “sugar leaves” comes from the white coating of delicious trichomes they have at the end of the flowering phase. While fan leaves also have trichomes, they are far less concentrated and therefore, less potent. However, fan leaves can still be used when making edibles.

Different strains will have different amounts of sugar leaves with different amounts of trichomes. And these traits are not correlated. Having more sugar leaves does not mean more trichomes, nor will resinous flower automatically signal more sugar leaves. Their size will also vary a lot. Sometimes they'll cover the bud, while other times, they'll barely peek through the flower. This will also be affected by how their size compares to that of the bud.

On the other hand, there seems to be a relation between the number of leaves and the size of the buds. When the buds are larger, they tend to contain fewer sugar leaves. But when the buds are smaller, they will have more sugar leaves. Why this happens is still a mystery, but growers have reported a noticeable trend.

Sugar Leaf vs Fan Leaf

ARE THEY SMOKABLE?

Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to this question. It's up to you as a grower to make the decision. Some growers will choose to leave them on for the extra weight. On certain strains, the sugar leaves will even make the buds more visually appealing due to the abundance of trichomes on them. They will also help the drying process happen more naturally.

On the other hand, sugar leaves will absolutely yield a harsher smoke. If you smoke them by themselves, the joint or bowl you pack will not taste good, nor will it be smooth on your throat. Although containing THC, sugar leaves are less concentrated than the flower and contain excess amounts of chlorophyll and other trace elements that contribute to a plant-like taste. Also, you'll have to grind a larger weight than usual to feel the same high with sugar leaves. If you so choose to smoke them, you're best leaving the leaves on the buds and grinding them with the flower as you go. This way, it will increase your volume of smoke without having too much of an unpleasant effect on the experience.

WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR SUGAR LEAVES

The decision to smoke sugar leaves will partially depend on the amount you have. If, after curing, you feel they aren't that present on your buds, you might as well leave them. They won't be worth the trouble of trimming further. But in case you've decided the cons of smoking sugar leaves outweigh the pros, here's what you can do with them.

Feuille Résineuse Et Feuilles Nurricières

MAKE A BATCH OF CANNABUTTER

Although sugar leaves aren’t too strong on their own, they offer a potent high when their trichomes are extracted and condensed.

This quintessential cooking extract can be infused into just about any recipe imaginable, from cakes and cookies to salad dressings and pasta dishes. Here’s how to make it:

INGREDIENTS

· 28g trimmed sugar leaves
· 250g salted butter
· 300ml tap water (add another 50ml for every hour the mixture is left simmering)

HARDWARE

· Kitchen knife (or a blender)
· Cheesecloth
· Storage container
· Measuring jug

DIRECTIONS

STEP 1

Before we start melting and mixing, we need to activate the sugar leaves. They’re already high in the cannabinoid acid THCA, but we need to convert that into THC to achieve a psychoactive effect. This can be done easily by applying heat—a process known as decarboxylation.

Begin by placing your dried sugar leaves on a chopping board. Chop them up as fine as possible with a sharp kitchen knife, or throw them into a blender to save some time.

Once processed, place the plant matter on a baking tray and preheat the oven to 100°C; bake for 40 minutes.

STEP 2

Melt the butter in a pan, add the water, and mix thoroughly. Add your plant matter and set to low heat. Simmer the mixture for a total of eight hours. Remember to add an extra 50ml of water every hour!

Check on the mixture frequently to make sure it doesn’t rise above a simmer, and give it a stir every now and then.

STEP 3

Next, you’ll need to filter your mixture. Fix the cheesecloth to the edges of the measuring jug using string or a rubber band and strain the mixture. You should be left with a vicious, green liquid.

Pour into separate containers—mason jars work well—and place them in the fridge for storage. The cannabutter will solidify and display a gorgeous light green colour. Now you’re ready to cook all manner of psychoactive edibles!

Sugar leaves

USE YOUR SUGAR LEAVES TO MAKE SOME KIEF

Kief is the byproduct of sieving cannabis buds and trim. In this case, screens will be used to separate the trichomes from the sugar leaves. These mushroom-shaped glands produce cannabinoids such as THC and CBD. The more you can separate, the stronger the high will be.

You can use a three-chamber grinder to make kief. This is the simplest method, although somewhat labour-intensive. Load your grinder with dried sugar leaves and grind away. The trichomes will first fall through small holes along with the ground leaves, before falling through a mesh screen into the bottom chamber, separating them from the plant matter.

An easier way to process more sugar leaves at once is to use a pollen box. This simple device is a wooden box affixed with a large mesh screen and a catching tray. Place dried sugar leaves inside and shake away. The kief will be collected in the bottom. You’ll need to shake for at least 10 minutes to yield reasonable results.

Once you have enough kief, it’s time to get creative. You can use it to line the outside of joints—using oil or wax as an adhesive—or to sprinkle into blunts and bowls for added potency.

If you want to save your kief for later, use a pollen press to morph it into a neat hash coin.

BREW SOME FRESH SUGAR LEAF TEA

Who doesn’t love a soul-nurturing cup of tea? You can use your sugar leaves to add a psychoactive punch to your brew.

Place around one gram of decarboxylated sugar leaves into a stainless steel filter and add it to your favourite mug. Add a teaspoon of butter to the cup (the fat will bind to the cannabinoids). Pour boiling water over the leaves and butter, stir, and let sit. Once it’s cool enough to sip, enjoy your cosy beverage. Alternatively, if you’re well-prepared, you can stir in a dollop of cannabutter to achieve the same effect instantly.

THERAPEUTIC USES

If you plan to use the sugar leaves for more healthful purposes, you can also turn them into a superfood of sorts. We suggest doing this by making a sugar leaf tincture, then infusing it into smoothies with healthy fruits and vegetables. Experiment with different dosages to optimise your intake of cannabinoids.

Making a tincture is easy enough. The first step is to decarboxylate your cannabis, then let your leaves soak in 90% alcohol for at least a month. Then, open the jar for a week or so. This will allow alcohol to evaporate and the tincture to concentrate further. And that's pretty much it. If you want to learn more about the process, we also have a great article on that to help you. It will provide you with a more in-depth explanation on how to go about making your own tincture.

And there you go. We hope that you now have sufficient information to decide on what to do with sugar leaves after your next harvest. Best of luck with it!

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