Sugar Leaves: What They Are & What To Do With Them
Before you go on and roll a sugar leaf joint, there are a few things you should know! Let’s get into the best ways to use your sugar leaves.
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.
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.
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:
· 28g trimmed sugar leaves
· 250g salted butter
· 300ml tap water (add another 50ml for every hour the mixture is left simmering)
· Kitchen knife (or a blender)
· Storage container
· Measuring jug
Wondering if you should smoke your sugar leaves? We'll help you decide, and give you some other great uses for sugar leaves.
Can You Smoke Sugar Leaves?
What are sugar leaves?
Sugar leaves are the small single-finger leaves that grow out of your cannabis buds during the flowering stage. They are called “sugar leaves” because these leaves are often covered in sparkly trichomes which look like a dusting of sugar.
The “sugar” on sugar leaves is actually THC-filled trichomes!
The amount of trichomes on the sugar leaves is related to strain. Some strains don’t produce a lot of trichomes even on buds, while others produce so many they spill onto all of the nearby leaves.
Although trichomes are a good thing because they carry cannabinoids like THC, some strains without many trichomes are still very potent because cannabinoids are also contained in the buds themselves. Sativa and Haze strains in particular often don’t have as many trichomes on the outside as indica-leaning strains, but are still incredibly potent!
Although this Lambsbread bud doesn’t have a whole lot of trichomes, it still has extremely powerful effects!
Besides strain, what affects the amount of trichomes on the sugar leaves?
Over the years I’ve noticed that you tend to get more trichomes on the sugar leaves when the buds are smaller. It’s like the plant has a certain number of trichomes it can make per bud, and if the buds stay small the trichomes spill out onto the leaves. But if you have a very thick cola, often the sugar leaves are not as sparkly as on the buds themselves.
Should Growers Smoke Sugar Leaves?
If you have sugar leaves that are covered in trichomes, what can you do with them? Do you trim them off after harvest and make hash or cannabutter? Or do you leave them on and smoke them?
Unfortunately there is no consensus. If you ever spend a lot of time interacting with other cannabis growing enthusiasts, you’ll come to learn there are as many opinions as there are ways to do things! So I made the following list to help guide you on figuring out what’s best for you 🙂
Pros of Smoking Sugar Leaves
- If you don’t trim off your sugar leaves after harvest, it will increase the total weight of your cannabis yield significantly
- If you’ve got a lot of sparkly leaves, buds may look prettier if you leave the sugar leaves on.
- Leaving sugar leaves on after harvest slows down the drying process, which may increase smell/flavor if you’re drying in a hot or dry environment.
Some strains produce so many trichomes that it’s hard to tell where the leaves stop and buds begin!
The buds from that plant were only lightly trimmed. The sugar leaves were as good to smoke as the buds
Cons of Smoking Sugar Leaves
- The leaves may be more “harsh” to smoke than the buds themselves. Some people find their throat is easily irritated from smoking untrimmed buds
- There is typically much less potency in leaves compared to buds (which are full of THC and other cannabinoids all the way through). That means you need to smoke far more leaves than buds to get the same effects.
So there are definitely pros and cons to each method!
What else can you do with sugar leaves?
Here are other things you can do with your sugar leaves besides smoking:
Edibles – Eat the Cannabinoids
Extracts (No Solvents) – Turn sugar leaves into concentrates
Extracts (Using a Solvent)
- Pure Cannabis Hash Oil (alcohol is used as a solvent)
The results of making dry ice hash
A closeup of the Bubble Hash we made
A closeup of Dry-Ice Hash from the same starting cannabis matter. You can actually see the individual trichomes!
Pure Cannabis Hash Oil can be eaten or smoked
I believe that smoking sugar leaves is something to consider on a bud-by-bud basis. Some sugar leaves probably should be left on buds to smoke, while others should be turned into something else. As you harvest more plants over time, you’ll start to get a feel for what you like best!
Should you smoke the leaves or trim them off? It depends partly on strain, environment, and the size of your buds. It also depends on personal preference!