Aside from branding, pot leaves are pretty much useless.
The distinctive shape of the leaf is eye-catching, but the vast majority of those leaves end up as mulch. Any time I see it, I wonder if the person who slapped it on a bright pink background and sent it off to the printer understood that those leaves are quickly snipped away from the precious flowers growing in their midst.
Hey, for a long time, I didn't know that. The first of many times I smoked cannabis, I thought I was inhaling dried-up leaves.
Was it just me?
If Liz Nolan has anything to say about it, maybe pot leaves will finally have a use—as juice. Nolan owns Portland Juice Co., the Southeast Powell Boulevard juicery that specializes in cold-pressed juice made on a state-of-the-art hydraulic press. Late last month, she introduced what she believes to be the world's first cannabis-leaf juice.
"We've been cold-pressing juice for four years, and we've juiced just about every fruit and veggie you can imagine," she says. "Everything you can get at the grocery store and many you can't get at the grocery store."
In the cold-pressed juice scene—it has a fervent following in New York and L.A. and is now expanding to places like Bend with a large bougie population—everyone is looking to push the envelope.
"Every type of produce is going to have some unique micronutrients that are unique to that vegetable and that aren't in anything else," Nolan says. "Almost every juice company has some variation of apple-beet-carrot, maybe with ginger, maybe without, but nobody gets excited about apple-beet-carrot, as opposed to something like turmeric, which is hot right now."
And thus, Ananda, the world's first commercially available cannabis-leaf juice. It's been on shelves for about two weeks, made from leaves harvested at a hemp farm in Nehalem, near the coast. The variety used is called fedora, which was bred to be a fiber plant. Portland Juice Co. used about 70 pounds of fresh green leaves. Because of the short season, those leaves joined cranberries as the only ingredients the company froze prior to use.
There's about an ounce of hemp juice in every bottle of Ananda, and it definitely tastes like cannabis, though each $8 container also has grapes, lime and sea salt in it.
"Compared to other leafy greens like, for example, kale, it has a mild flavor," Nolan says. "We wanted to complement it and not mask it like we would other greens."
Because it's made from a hemp plant, it has less than .03 milligrams of THC. That was the lowest the lab could read—it could be even lower. It's also low in CBD, though a CBD-rich version could be next if Nolan can find a farmer that has plants bred for CBD instead of fiber. Since CBD is unscheduled, they could easily do it, too.
Either way, there's a lot of potential here. Cannabis is a versatile, hearty plant, and yet most of it is wasted, even by an industry in which growers are scrappy and would take pride in finding a way to be more efficient with resources and to feed people. Since Ananda went on sale, Nolan says she's gotten a few business cards from people in the cannabis industry who want to help her find a use for all those pretty leaves.
"It's a really sustainable plant," Nolan says. "It grows really quickly, and there's definitely a lot of plant material that doesn't traditionally get used that I think is an excellent source of nutrition and could be the next frontier for food sustainability."