Tiny seeds sown in spring have yielded heavy-hung branches of buds ripe for death by Halloween.
In 2022, we reported that legal cannabis ranks sixth among US cash crops. Much of it is outdoor from California, where weed’s heartland, Humboldt County, beats out a global rhythm.
As such, America needs to know the best buds for smoking this fall and winter. So here, we’ve distilled a definitive baker’s dozen strains from among the thousands in the database of Best Cannabis.
These are the gilded scions of cannabis’ $60 billion-a-year Golden Age—built from decades of selection, and born to withstand the invisible hand of an ever-freer market.
We have indoor bangers making the transition to outdoor—like Apples and Bananas. We have outdoor acts of God flooding the market—like Lemon Cherry Gelato and Gush Mints. And we’re seeing a nostalgia wave. Blue Dream is back on top out west.
“There’s no room now for anything that’s not hitting all the checkpoints,” said Salinas, CA, greenhouse grower Christina DiPaci at Paradiso Gardens. “They have to have high potency. They have to yield. They have to have color. They have to have visible crystals. They have to have nose. They have to smoke well.”
Here’s what made the cut.
Not all strains work outdoors. So we start with a newer variety making the transition to outdoor and shining bright—Glitterbomb. Bred by Compound Genetics in the Chris Lynch era, it hails from Grape Gas #10 x OGKB Blueberry Headband. If you’re a THC percentage chaser, Glitterbomb took silver in the California State Fair Cannabis Awards 2023 for THC. Grape, berry, candy, and fuel smells serve the center mass of the 2023 market, and the sedative hybrid-indica pairs perfectly with holiday fun. We saw superb outdoor or greenhouse Glitterbomb from Paradiso Gardens in Salinas to Sonoma Hills Farm in Petaluma.
Grapes N Cream
Farmers grew a problematic amount of the Cannarado strain Grapes N Cream this year. The mega-cloners at Phinest in Sacramento, CA, sold the cutting to hundreds of farms, and Grapes N Cream went frickin’ beast mode outside in 2023 with huge, dense, mold-resistant colas. The cross of Grape Pie x Cookies N Cream makes it a cousin to Oreoz, which had its own huge wave. Smokers love the dramatic purple color, the creamy grapes and gas smell and taste, and the high-THC indica effect that’ll put you down like Xanax. And it hashes great for the dabber.
“It’s a big consideration now—finding strains that can do well in flower and also do well in solventless production,” said Nat Pennington at Humboldt Seed Co. “100%—I love Grapes N Cream. We’ve seen a lot of bags of it.”
Bred by Oakland’s Purple City Genetics, Gush Mints did the same thing as Grapes N Cream. It got into everyone’s garden where it grew like some science experiment gone awry into an aggressive, 10-foot-tall hedgerow spiked with five-foot spears.
“It’s too successful,” said Eli Melrod, wholesale weed buyer and founder of the Solful dispensaries. “It’s a beast.”
Gush Mints is sticky, with milder kush and mint notes that entice casual smokers for very calming, nighttime effects. Even more so the Gush Mints 1:1 version with equal parts THC and CBD. Gush Mints is made of Kush Mints x (F1 Durb x Gushers).
“PCG nailed it with that cutting, so props to that,” said Nat.
Pretty, appetizing, effective, and undeniably in demand, Lemon Cherry Gelato is the Taylor Swift of 2023 weed strains.
Smokers should have their pick of some primo LCGs this fall thanks to a huge crop of it making buyers more picky.
The lemon, cherry, creamy, berry-sweet smell and taste, and the indica-leaning hybrid effects pair with everything—except work. LCG was High Times’ strain of 2022, and one of our runner’s up to Leafly Strain of the Year 2022. The brand Cookies’ Humboldt Grown Initiative has a greenhouse or light-dep Triple Scoop (Lemon Cherry x Gelato), hitting California Cookies and Lemonnade dispensary shelves from October to December. Big growers Farmer and the Felon have PLCR (Platinum Runtz x Lemon Cherry Gelato).
Apples and Bananas
The most terpy thing we’ve seen so far from the outdoor crop is the Cookies’ Blue Power x Gelatti cross, Apples and Bananas—another escapee from indoor growing. Briceland Forest Farm’s summer light-dep A&B maxes out the terps of the season at 4%. That’s 8 times the national average for aroma. Apples and Bananas gives off waves of apple, pear, and tree fruit that’s thicker than Nicki Minaj. It’s loud, but not biting. It says, ‘Pour me on your face.’
“Your whole house will smell like that from an eighth,” said Melrod at Solful.
Goodbye, anxiety, stress and depression. Hello, happy, soaring, arousal. Yeah, baby.
Apples and Bananas banged out in sungrown, regenerative gardens. We’re seeing A+B and crosses from Seed707, and Phinest Ian’s new micro-batch clone brand Uncle Dad Vibes.
Every modern harvest has to have some Cakes—Wedding Cake, Ice Cream Cake, and now Blueberry Cupcake. It’s a cross of Humboldt Seed Company’s idiot-proof Blueberry Muffin to America’s favorite, Wedding Cake, which boosts the THC. Ooh, Lord, it worked. Walking through the fields at Sonoma Hills Farm, squeezing the Blueberry Cupcake and smelling the authentic blueberry and buttery sweet cupcake aroma—I instantly wanted the pastry.
Blueberry Cupcake’s 50-50 hybrid effects pair with any activity day or night. The cultivar also crushes in outdoor runs and makes life easy for farmers, says Joyce Cenali at Sonoma Hills Farm. It has a really low leaf-to-bud ratio that makes for less work.
OK—it’s time for a weird one. The strain Cheetah Piss returns to our harvest list after a two-year hiatus. Why? Because one of the top outdoor growers of all time, Ridgeline Farms of Southern Humboldt, CA, keeps growing it, and absolutely slayed their run.
“The Cheetah Piss that Ridgeline grew did great in dep. Production-wise—it’s nuts,” said Nat at Humboldt Seed Co.
Cookies brand Cheetah Piss brings together three top strains—Lemonnade, Gelato 42, and London Poundcake 97. It’s been out since 2019. Despite all the dessert genes, Cheetah Piss has bite—users report smelling ammonia, menthol, and skunky pungence. That smell puts people in heat with a sativa-hybrid effect that makes folks aroused, giggly, and happy.
Cheetah Piss shrugged off the wet, cold first half of the year—resisting powdery mildew and yielding huge.
“Piss packs a punch,” said Daniel Hendricks of the influential HendRx Nursery.
We expected to see lots of crosses of Jealousy, Leafly Strain of the Year 2022, and indeed we did. Adios MF united (Biscotti x Sherb) x Jealousy f2 to create smells of candied lime, blueberry jam, and marshmallows. It tastes like a fresh bowl of berries and cream with lime on top with a strong, mood-lifting body high that works with movies, relaxation, and sleep. Formerly an indoor strain, the Cookies brand took Adios MF into their greenhouse this year and blew us away.
Newsflash: Blue Dream is back on top of traffic in the western US, and it’s not all fake Blue Dream carts or cleverly named edibles gaming Google search. Smokers are enjoying a serious nostalgia trip this year, watchers say.
“Across the board, the classics are back: OG Kush, Blue Dream, and Sour Diesel are in high demand and being planted harmoniously to feed the need,” said Hendricks.
Made from DJ Short Blueberry x Haze, Blue Dream emerged sui generis from the hot hills of Santa Cruz in the ‘90s. It’s as ‘90s as a vintage Nirvana t-shirt—with a mild blueberry taste, and anxiety-stopping 50-50 hybrid effects.
Double OG Chem
This list has to have an OG Kush every year, so we’re going with Rebel Grown’s super-award-winning Double OG Chem. We grew it in our garden—it’s fire. So did large-scale industry leaders Farmer and the Felon. Double OG Chem sits at the center of the Venn Diagram of OG Kush, Chemdog, and Sour Diesel. The gorgeous green buds give off this lemony, limey, chemmy, fuel bite with a potent hybrid indica effect; perfect for a weekday happy hour, or a lazy Sunday.
Tons of OGs grow OGs, so don’t miss Farmer and the Felon’s crop of it, as well Ridgeline’s Lambo OG, Biovortex’s Banana Cherry Lime Dog from Sonoma Hills Farm, and Blimburn Seeds’ LSD (Lemon Sour Diesel) grown by Swami Select.
Elite grower Tina Gordon from Moon Made Farms gave me a bag of this new strain when I was in Humboldt, and she doesn’t mess around. Then we saw massive trees of it in Petaluma, CA, and we knew we had to include it. Sherb Haze comes from Abakaba Heirlooms—via Conception Nurseries—and unites two obvious winners, Sherbert Bx1 x Neville’s Haze, to produce cartoonishly huge, rocket colas that would make SpaceX engineers salivate.
It smells hazy-sweet with a lot of Sherbert body that veers more floral than creamy-berry. The Haze brightens up Sherbert’s sedative effect, making it an all-day smoke. It’s the perfect example of giving people something new that maps to something they love. Roll up big, guilt-free joints of outdoor Sherb Haze.
As we round out our outdoor list, we wanted to include a top strain for people who enjoy hash. They probably won’t be surprised to learn that Papaya is back for another year to power all those rosin dabs and live resin carts. We don’t know exactly what the breeder or lineage is—some say Papaya is rebranded Green Crack. But we know it’s got a papaya smell and taste, indica hybrid effects, and it dumps trichomes for hash making.
Alpenglow Farm grew PCG’s Papaya Berry Runtz (Strawberry Runtz x Papaya Bomb) that updates classic Papaya with more creamy berries. Farmer and the Felon did well with Purple City Genetics’ Peach Panther (Peaches x Papaya Bomb). Expect to see a lot of small batches of Papaya crosses. Connoisseur smokers get bored faster than ever, so farmers and stores have started rotating in fresh remixes. Alpenglow’s Papaya Berry Runtz batch for Solful totals just 3 to 5 pounds, or as little as 384 eighth-ounce jars. So don’t miss the boat.
Sour Lemon MAC
We end with something for our lovers of Jack Herer—the top-selling strain at Solful in 2023, despite the fact that it’s like 30 years old. Specifically, Happy Dreams Genetics’ Sour Lemon MAC tests super-high for Jack’s main terpene—terpinolene. Sour Lemon MAC has 1.44% terpinolene, and 3.71% terpenes overall. That’s almost 7 times higher than the national average for aroma. Super Lemon MAC has weird parents, too. It’s (Mother’s Milk x Lemon Blueberry) x MAC and Cheese. Love that.
People want functional, classic weed—not some debilitating rapper’s delight, said Eli at Solful.
source : leafly.com