Chefs Develop a New Appreciation for Cannabis' Flavors

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If you love to cook, then chances are that you’re already aware of the incredible properties of cannabis as far as enhancing the experience of dining. Beyond stimulating your appetite and giving yourself the “munchies,” a pleasant buzz also makes cooking fun, transforming a routine domestic chore into an opportunity to indulge your senses and revel in the various colors, shapes, textures and tastes of food.

As more people learn the pleasures of pairing food and cannabis, more private dinner parties will pop up where chefs create inventive foods using weed as an ingredient like any other fresh herb. Much like the art of pairing wine with cuisine, “cannabis sommeliers” are becoming a thing, with experts quantifying the ways food and weed can interact. Truly an OG cannabis chef, Jessica Catalano pioneered strain-specific pairing with her book The Ganja Kitchen Revolution, published in 2012. Since then, all types of chefs have gotten into experimenting with cannabis as a culinary ingredient, developing new techniques for infusing herb into fats or alcohol and seeking to either highlight the distinctive flavor or eliminate it entirely.

Jamie Evans, a veteran of the world of fine wine, has pivoted to focus on cannabis, adapting her expertise to another facet of fine dining. Quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle, Evans says that cannabis is used “... for many pleasurable experiences, but also know this is a medicine used to heal the heart, body and soul.” Through The Herb Somm, Evans hosts pairing events and infused supper clubs.

If you'd like to try pairing cannabis with your food, look for ways that the flavors compliment and contrast each other. The next time you’re at the farmer’s market, take time to check out the fruits and veggies, and notice how citrus, herbs and spices can smell similar to certain types of cannabis strains. The reason that Lemon Haze smells like actual lemons has to do with “terpenes,” the chemical components of plants that give them distinct aromas. Technically known as the “volatile unsaturated hydrocarbons found in the essential oils of plants,” terpenes have driven increased interest in developing the flavors inherent in cannabis strains and extracts versus simply relying on the THC percentage of cannabis as an indicator of quality.

Terpenes also possess healing benefits, making them part of the “entourage effect,” a theory put forth by Dr. Ethan Russo—one of the world’s foremost cannabis scientists—that every part of the plant plays a synergistic role in creating specific therapeutic effects. Each type of cannabis plant develops a unique terpene profile, with many terpenes simultaneously working to imbue a flower with its characteristic bouquet.

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Let’s learn a little about the various terpenes:

  • Limonene - Also found in lemons and other citrus fruits, limonene helps uplift mood and counteract depression
  • Myrcene - Known for a sedative effect, myrcene is found in mangoes, hops, lemongrass and thyme, among other plants.
  • Linalool - The smell of lavender is attributed to linalool, a terpene that soothes anxiety and helps people sleep, along with additional benefits.
  • Pinene - A common cannabis terpene, pinene evokes the aroma of pine needles, as well as acting as a bronchodilator and anti-inflammatory.
  • Geraniol - Present in geraniums, this terpene is also used to ward off mosquitos as well as relieve neuropathy.

There are many more terpenes to explore, so check out SC Labs for more information about how these “essential oils” make cannabis effective as well as pleasant.

If you’re interested in enhancing meals by adding weed, check out “Pairing Cannabis Strains with Cuisine” for a full menu of sensual delights.