“Yes, the untrimmed Sheshemani she shared with me is light and feathery, but not insubstantial. There are nice, pale greenish-brown, buds inside that outer, leafy layer.”
Shashamane is a town in Ethiopia, just north of the equator in Eastern Africa. Sure, it’s a world away from the Emerald Magazine‘s Northern California home base in cannabis-central, but it should come as no surprise to anyone that people cultivate and consume cannabis there too.
This month’s edition of Pot Talk features Sheshemani cannabis, an African landrace sativa strain provided by Mary Stone, a California-based farmer that has spent a great deal of her life residing in Kenya, which borders Ethiopia to the south.
Her kids were born and raised there, and she owns a house on the historic island of Lamu. And while Stone calls California home base these days, she still makes yearly trips to Kenya. Luckily for us, she brought some Sheshemani seeds back here on a more recent trip.
The name “Sheshemani” comes from the Ethiopian location, similar to the way champagne typically comes from the Champagne region of France. And, like champagne, it’s chronic.
Stone offers some backstory: “I’ve lived in Kenya for years and years. And we smoked this Kenyan bush weed which is just so full of twigs… You buy it on the twigs with seeds and leaf. By the time you clean it for an hour, you get a joint. It is good smoke, but it’s a lot of cleaning.”
At some point, she started to see Sheshemani come around. “So all of a sudden this nice cannabis was showing up in Kenya, and it was coming from Ethiopia. It was being sold at a much higher price than the local weed. There’s still seeds in it, which is how we have the strain here. But it’s a much cleaner, denser bud… For $20 you can get probably a quarter of an ounce, which is a lot of money there. But definitely worth the investment.”
She brought some seeds back to California, planted and sexed them, then took clones off the nicest mother. She got five Sheshemani plants going in pots — a couple runts and three bigger plants. When it came time for her to do some travelling, she passed the three bigger plants onto some friends and threw the two smaller ones in the ground in her backyard garden in Oakland, California. That was in February of 2015.
“The ones in the ground just started to take off,” she tells me. “They were no longer the runts.” And they got huge, lanky and tall. By August, she started to harvest some of the other sativas she had going in her backyard. “They went off early. But the Sheshemani was still showing no signs of flowering.”
The days were getting shorter and the plants just kept getting taller, so tall that she had to “commando raise” her fences to conceal the ginormous sativas. Remember, this was her urban backyard garden in Oakland!
It got to the point where everything else was flowering, and she wanted the Sheshemani to start flowering too. So she started feeding the two plants with a very strong dose of “bloom” every couple of weeks or so.
Now here’s what’s crazy about the Sheshemani: It’s a landrace strain, a pure sativa indigenous to equatorial Africa. Well, in equatorial regions, the times for sunrise and sunset don’t differ much throughout the year. “Basically it’s 12-12 all year long.”
What a fascinating thing, right? How do indigenous equatorial plants know when to start flowering? My cursory readings lead me to understand that equatorial landrace sativas have more imperceptible environmental and seasonal flowering triggers than we are used to here in NorCal. Some internet forums suggest creating ‘’11-13″ photoperiods to get such sativas flowering, meaning 11 hours of light and 13 hours of dark.
Well, an 11-13 photoperiod doesn’t start happening naturally in NorCal until the beginning of October. So Stone was right on with that bloom regimen. That Sheshemani needed to get flowering!
Her method was effective. “First I was tying it down to keep the branches from going too high,” she says. When the buds started to get big, like the size of her arm, she jury-rigged a couple of “teepees” to put over the plants and tie the buds up.
She harvested the Sheshemani flowers on Nov. 7th of 2015 — that was ten months in the ground. “And it still could have bloomed for probably another month before the buds were really ready.” All told, the lanky sativas grew to about 12′ with about 4″ diameter stalks. The buds were light, airy and aromatic, not dense at all.
“I didn’t grow it to sell it. I grew it to experiment and to see what would happen.” The experiment was a great success, I believe. And I was stoked to hear that she has some more Sheshemani seed plants going here in NorCal this season. She plans to cross some of them with some more popular, domesticated strains. “Hopefully that will help adapt it a little bit more to the California climate.” She wants the strain to bloom earlier and to not grow so long.
Yes, the untrimmed Sheshemani she shared with me is light and feathery, but not insubstantial. There are nice, pale greenish-brown, buds inside that outer, leafy layer. Lots of trichomes too, and the hairs are a dark brown-crimson color. The smell is so unlike everything I’m used to when it comes to weed. It’s a little spicy, but mostly sweet and flowery…slightly skunky but more gardenia, honey, lemon and Angostura bitters. I get lost in its ambrosia.
The flavor has depth too, it’s fresh and agreeable, far from harsh. The effect is a reverse high — it makes me clear and awake, as opposed to groggy and ungrounded. The head change is creative and stimulating. I followed my heart to inspiration and artistry on the Sheshemani.
Thanks to Mary Stone for sharing this unique cannabis. You can catch her at the Mindful Farms Cooperative booth at the upcoming Casual Crop Exchange in Southern Humboldt on Sept. 18th, 2016.
Written by Emily Hobelmann