Marijuana growers who observe their plants closely from the infantile seedling stage all the way to the mature flowering phase will notice that in the flowering phase, sugar leaves start to grow out of these plants. Many growers are often confused about what to do with these leaves – are they to be trimmed away along with the fan leaves and hair strands, or are they to be kept around and can be smoked up later. This confusion is something that we’ve seen a lot of growers (particularly first-timers) grapple with. Hence, we’ve decided to come out with our explainer on sugar leaves which will give you a complete information on what they are, what to do with them – and give you an insight on everything that you wish to know about sugar leaves!
Over the course of this article, we shall first answer the basic question – what are sugar leaves, how to identify them, and the biggest question – what is the best way to utilize them. Growers always want to maximize their yields and simply tossing away the sugar leaves by calling them a ‘trim’ is a rookie mistake! There’s so much that you can actually gain by keeping these leaves with you. Besides sugar leaves, we shall also take a quick look at what other ‘trim’ such as fan leaves can be used for too.
By the time you reach the end of this article, we hope that you will look at sugar leaves in a completely different light than you were up until now. These leaves can be quite useful and we are here to tell you exactly how! However, before that, let us first understand what sugar leaves are –
What are Sugar Leaves?
There are many different kinds of leaves that come out of your marijuana plant – the two major types are fan leaves and sugar leaves. The fan leaves are easily identifiable by their big fan-like structures and are removed by the growers. However, the other category is sugar leaves. The growers community is somewhat split over this. While most growers prefer to remove them too, there’s still a significant section of people who like to keep them along with their final product. Let’s try and understand these leaves in a better manner.
Sugar leaves are called ‘sugar’ leaves not because they have sugar content in them, but they have trichome crystals all around them which give them a sugary look. There are trichomes present in the larger fan leaves too, but the concentration of trichomes in sugar leaves is far higher in comparison to those in fan leaves. (we will discuss fan leaves towards the end).
However, if you are a new grower or if you’re someone who is yet to start growing but is reading up, there will be one question which instantly pops in your mind at this point – what is a trichome and what are we talking about! Hence, before we proceed with sugar leaves, here’s a quick look at what trichomes are:
- What are Trichomes
Trichomes are basically hair-like structures which are shiny and crystalline when you look at them. They stand out in the marijuana plant and have quite a different look and feel (and often color) to them when compared to the rest of the plant. These trichomes are usually rich in THC, CBD and other cannabinoids which the marijuana plant is known for. These trichomes won’t be a part of your cannabis plant for a really long time but will begin to pop up once your plant enters the flowering phase. Generally speaking, the higher the number of trichomes, the higher the concentration of CBD/THC in your plant is. This is why sugar leaves are important.
As to how many trichomes there will be on your sugar leaves – there is no definite answer. It generally depends largely upon the plant genetics. If your marijuana plant is one which naturally has a higher THC/CBD% the result will be visible on the sugar leaves too. Similarly, a lower THC/CBD% in the genetic buildup of the plant will result in sugar leaves with a sparse presence of trichomes. Generally speaking, if your plant has a large number of sugar leaves – it does not always mean that you will have a high THC presence.
How to Identify Sugar Leaves
Coming back to the topic of sugar leaves after understanding what trichomes are, let us now look at how to identify sugar leaves. This is something really important that growers need to know about! These leaves begin to appear around the time the flowering kicks in. About midway into the flowering, the trichome-rich sugar leaves will now be distinctly visible. However, there’s a small problem when it comes to these leaves – unlike the bigger fan leaves, the stem of these sugar leaves is generally buried deep inside the foliage and growers can’t see where it originates from, making it harder to separate them.
There are some plants in which sugar leaves are outright visible because they are laden with trichomes and are clearly visible due to their crystalline sugary look and feel. In other cases, there are sugar leaves which are not as visible because they are more hairy and have fewer trichomes. Moreover, there’s another problem – not all sugar leaves are located in a viewer-friendly manner. Sometimes you will have so many of them coming out that your buds might get hidden under them and then there can be times that they are so tiny that they are hidden inside the foliage and you’ll have to move things around just to spot them.
However, while many factors are variable, there’s one trend which seems to be quite common. The larger your bud is, the smaller (and lesser) the sugar leaves around it are going to be. On the other hand, the smaller your bud is, the more these leaves will be present. This has been a general observation all over the world and researchers are still looking for answers as to why this tends to happen.
Can I Smoke Sugar Leaves?
So this is where we address the most complex question of this article. Should you or should you not smoke sugar leaves. There’s a majority which tends to remove them while a significant minority smokes them up. If these sugar leaves have trichomes rich in THC and CBD, why would one toss them away – which of the two types of stoners is right? Let us discuss –
First up, there are some professional sellers and dispensaries which tend to keep the sugar leaves on the bud just to increase the weight of the bud to squeeze in more money from you! While buying a bud, always make sure you’re checking for sugar leaves on them. Sometimes because of the presence of these sugar leaves, the buds look even more visually appealing than what they usually do. They add quite a bit of sparkle to the bud and make them look good.
Besides that, there’s no denial that their presence does add a little to the ‘high’ that you get. However, there’s one significant problem. Sugar leaves are smokable, but they are very harsh to smoke. Most stoners do not like this harshness that they bring along and hence tend to remove the sugar leaves. The taste that weed has is impacted adversely when you add sugar leaves to the mix. The taste is also impacted because these leaves have a more ‘plantlike’ taste due to the presence of a lot of chlorophyll in them.
Besides the taste, another thing that is adversely impacted is the ‘smoothness’ of your weed. Often when you smoke weed that has sugar leaves present in it, you will get a very harsh feeling in your throat and the smoke will be rougher to intake. Smoking such weed generally tends to get harder with every passing ‘puff’. Many stoners who have smoked weed which has a significant presence of these sugar leaves in them, have faced long bouts of coughing which make the whole experience quite unpleasant and hence do not prefer to add these sugar leaves in the mix.
While it is true that technically adding sugar leaves, particularly those which have a high trichome concentration, helps increase the overall THC/CBD% but there are a number of problems relating to the harshness of the smoke and the loss of taste that stoners face which are a bigger issue to most people. To sum it up in simple words, yes, sugar leaves can cause quite a bit of a problem if smoked in terms of taste and quality, but when it comes to the question “can you smoke sugar leaves”, the technical answer is yes. But “should you?” the answer depends upon your preferences!
Pros and Cons of Sugar Leaves
Having understood what sugar leaves are, how to identify them and what they carry in them, it is important for growers and stoners to know the pros and cons of sugar leaves. Here’s a quick look at these advantages and disadvantages which will help you make a decision as to whether or not you should smoke sugar leaves:
- The shiny and sparkly look that these sugar leaves have add a different charm to your plants and make them look attractive
- If you are selling your weed commercially, keeping sugar leaves on your plant will ensure that your buds weigh more and you can make a little more profit on your produce.
- Keeping sugar leaves intact helps slow down the overall drying process after the harvest. This is beneficial because it helps the growers get a better taste and smell on their plants which often gets lost in case of a faster drying-up of the plants.
- Smoking sugar leaves tends to give a ‘harsher’ experience as they can be quite the irritants when the smoke is generated
- These leaves have a plant-like taste which diminish the taste of your bud
What is the Best Way to Utilize Sugar Leaves?
Now comes the next question – what do you do with all these sugar leaves that are growing along with your cannabis plants? They grow in significant amounts and can simply not be ignored. While smoking these sugar leaves is not the optimal solution, there are a number of other things that you can do with them. Especially considering how trichome-rich they are, growers should ideally store them so that they can use them for other processes so that they can benefit from the THC/CBD present inside them.
How to Decarb Sugar Leaves?
Many people like to consume sugar leaves in other ways. However, before you consume them (in whatever form), you will first need to decarboxylate them. This is often referred to as ‘decarbing’ your sugar leaves. Decarbing is basically the process of converting the THCA present in the leaves to THC. The biggest difference between the two is that while the former is a non-psychoactive compound, the latter is what gives you the real ‘high’. If you want to use the sugar leaves for purposes of getting high, you will need to decarb them by converting the THCA into THC. This can be done by grinding the sugar leaves into a powder-like mix, keeping them in a dish and then tightly wrapping aluminum foil around them to make it air-tight. Then, proceed to keep it in an oven and set the temperature to about 115 degrees, and heat it up for about an hour. Your sugar trim would now be decarbed and ready for consumption.
What Can You Do With Sugar Leaves
Here’s a closer look at all the things you can do with these sugar leaves instead of tossing them away in the bin:
Cannabutter is one of the most common ways in which edible weed is consumed. You need salted butter to make cannabutter. Melt the butter. Mix the trimmed leaves (also make sure they are decarboxylated) to the melted butter. And simmer the solution along with some water for about 8 hours. Stir once every hour or so. Once you’ve done that, filter the mixture and freeze it to form cannabutter!
Kief is basically prepared by separating the trichomes from the sugar leaves. In order to do this, put the sugar leaves in a grinder and grind it a little. It will cause the trichomes to fall off into the second chamber. Give it a good shake so that the finer trichomes are eventually in the third chamber from where you can collect the kief together and use it for preparing other edibles or press it into a hash coin.
Sugar Leaf Tea
Sugar leaf tea is just like any other tea that you would prepare out of plant leaves but this one comes with a twist. This tea can get you high! Depending on the amount of trichomes present in your buds, you can get mildly buzzed to pretty high by drinking this tea. You would again need to make use of decarbed sugar leaves in order to prepare this tea.
You can prepare a tincture out of these sugar leaves and have it dropped under your tongue so that it reaches straight to the bloodstream! Similarly, you can also have it dropped in other drinks such as a coffee, juice, smoothie, tea, etc. and consume it. Tinctures can be very powerful! Place the dried up leaves in a jar and have them immersed in alcohol. Keep the jar in a dark place and make sure you’re shaking things up at least once a day. About 2 weeks of this should be enough, post which you can strain the tincture through a sieve and transfer it to dropper bottles using small funnels. Your sugar leaf tincture is now ready!
Brownies are among the most ‘fun’ ways in which weed can be consumed as an edible. you can add sugar leaves to your mix while you are making hash brownies to give it a little extra punch. Instead of the traditional flowers you can use only sugar leaves too, but they would provide a much milder high in comparison. Nonetheless, this is something that you can totally try out or use to increase the high of a regular hash brownie instead of throwing away the leaves.
If you are a fan of vaping, you might want to use the sugar leaves there in order to get whatever ‘high’ you can out of the trichomes. Since the harshness that you get when smoking sugar leaves won’t be felt during vaping as it is a very smooth draw here.
Rosin has been getting quite popular among stoners of all age groups of late. While pressing for rosin extracts, you can toss in some sugar leaves along with the flowers to get the most out of the trichomes. Rosin extracts can be made at home – here’s how you can make DIY Rosin Press at Home!
Herb Topping for Food
Ok this one’s easy. Simply grind it enough and sprinkle it over your pizza or your pasta as a topping to add some flavour (and maybe some high).
Last but not the least, if you don’t wish to do any of these things, you might just toss them in a bag for preparing compost later on. It is organic material in the end and can be used for creating some good-quality soil!
Frequently Asked Questions about Sugar Leaves
Here are the answers to some of the most common and frequently asked questions that there are about sugar leaves.
1. Are there any side effects of smoking sugar leaves?
There are no ‘side effects’ as such but the smoke that comes from them is quite harsh and you will be left coughing for a while! People generally tend to remove the leaves from the buds because they don’t give you as smooth a high as smoking regular weed does.
2. Can I get high by smoking only sugar leaves?
Technically, yes. You’ll need to smoke up a LOT of it though. Like really a lot of sugar leaves. While they do have THC content, but that is not significant enough to get you a ‘high’. Even that won’t be an optimal experience because as explained above, these leaves tend to be quite harsh when it comes to producing smoke.
3. Should I just throw away my sugar leaves after cutting them off?
No! You must not throw them away, these leaves can be quite useful when it comes to producing other cannabis-rich food such as cannabutter or cannabis tea. They can also be pressed along with the flowers to produce rosin, or can be used for tinctures, kief, brownies, etc.
4. Are fan leaves and sugar leaves the same?
Fan leaves are the big green leaves that form the core portion of the foliage and do not carry any THC content in them. Even if there are some THC-rich trichomes on them, they are very few in number and are not concentrated enough to provide you with any sort of a high whatsoever. They need to be removed and tossed away. Hence, fan leaves and sugar leaves are not the same.
5. Do sugar leaves carry sugar in them?
Sugar leaves get the name ‘sugar’ leaves because they have a crystalline sugar-like look and feel to them, thanks to the trichomes, and not because they carry any sugar in them or are sweet to taste (which they are NOT!)
We hope that this article has helped you gain a broader and a better understanding about sugar leaves and everything that you need to know about them. These leaves can be of great use to growers if they use them in the right way. While some people do prefer to smoke it, there are others (us included), who’d rather separate them and use them for other purposes such as the preparation of rosins or something like cannabutter. All said and done, if there are any other uses of sugar leaves that you know and we have missed, feel free to let us know over the comments or drop us a mail about that! Till then..
..Happy Growing! 🙂