The last memorable experience I had with edibles was with an old-fashioned space cake that screamed my name when I had skipped dinner. I made the stupid mistake of eating half the cake. That turned out to be a bad idea—but boy, it was really delicious.
Fast-forward to a toilet four hours later: I lay shivering in the corner of the bathroom, thinking time was about to stand still as my heart would soon stop beating. I knew that cannabis wasn't fatal, but I was becoming less convinced by the minute.
Meanwhile, some years have passed (I'm still alive) and to this very moment, space cake is actually still the only known edible variant of cannabis in the Netherlands. It's different in the US. An edible culture resembling haute cuisine arose there in recent years, whereby THC and CBD are brought to the consumer in a pleasant, relatively healthy way.
The reason Dutch people aren't that enthusiastic about it yet might perhaps be because of the fact that it's illegal in the Netherlands, while cannabis is regulated in four states in the US now. If Dutch coffee shops sell something edible, it's space cake, and the law on this cake is a bit odd.
In the Netherlands, space cakes may only be sold if the main ingredient is crushed weed. The traditional way of making space cake is done by melting butter in a pan and adding weed to it, and then using the butter to bake the cake.
But according to the court, you are not allowed to do it this way. You'll extract THC from the weed if you add it to the butter, and for some weird reason, THC is in the list of hard drugs in the Netherlands. It's absurd, but it's reality in the Netherlands.
Modern edibles are made of weed concentrates—for example, by using a gas such as CO2 to extract the active ingredients from the plant and throw away the plant residues. It might be illegal, but it's healthier than smoking, and a godsend for people who don't want to inhale smoke.
One of the people trying to innovate the market beyond the traditional space cake is Ryan, who wants to tackle things professionally with his startup Golden Green Bakeries. We met him at the Cannabis College in Amsterdam's Red Light District, where he had a bag full of edibles with him after his workday.
Ryan has been doing this for four months now, and he believes things are going great. "We had too many different kinds of edibles at the beginning," Ryan said, sitting on the couch of Cannabis College. "Now we often try to ask the customers what they'd really want to have, not only in taste but also in terms of dosage."
Golden Green Bakeries' assortment includes Rice Krispies, gummy bears, white chocolate, and muffins. Ryan expresses the dosage in the number of milligrams of THC contained in the edible, and he maintains a dose of 10 milligrams of THC per edible.
"If you're not in for smoking, then vaping isn't an option either," Ryan said. "An edible is. If you want to, you could even put it in your tea or coffee in the morning, or in a salad for dinner."
It's not easy to get an insight in the Dutch scene of cannabis edibles. MUNCHIES met Stefano at Cannabis Liberation Day in the Flevopark in Amsterdam. Stefano is an Italian who once fled to the Netherlands because of the repressive government in his own country, and because he has a passion for cannabis (as well as skateboarding and music).
His company Micro Genetics focuses mainly on developing good seeds, but he wants to innovate. He does this at his apartment in Amsterdam, where we visit him to get a closer look on how he's trying to develop new products.
The culinary process can be challenging, Stefan said. "The nice thing is that you can really vary with the flavors. I've got a concentrate here that has a lime-like flavor; it's called Sour Haze. You can make all sorts of things with it: ice cream, candy, or a syrup, for example."
"I have found out that maple syrup works best to solve your concentrate in," said Stefano. "You can use the syrup directly for your food, but I also found a way of making it into powder, so you can use it for a lot more products."
In order to regulate the flavor, you need to look carefully at the kind of weed you use. Important for the taste are terpenes, a class of substances found in various plants, such as conifers and laurel, which give the weed its specific smell and taste. In cannabis cultivation, people mix up the terpenes to give the pot different flavors.
According to Ryan, a lot of research will have to be done on these terpenes in the next few years. People are currently still looking for ways to change the taste of weed. One of the two girls Ryan works with has studied food design and innovation in Den Bosch, and is responsible for the successful preparation of the edibles. Stefano cooperates with a chef who works in a restaurant in Amsterdam.
"Cannabis concentrate can have quite a strong flavor. We had to figure out how to deal with this," said Ryan. Stefano said that THC can sometimes cause a heavy feeling in the throat— something he wants to focus on in the future and for which he could really use as much expertise possible.
The medical market can really benefit from this research, Ryan said. Reliable information and knowledge on cannabis is desperately needed. "We can't do it alone," said Ryan. "We must all make an effort to get this industry off the ground."
Stefano's recipe for syrup and cannabis boil powder
Needed for the syrup:
- 5 grams extract.
- 5 tablespoons maple syrup
"Put the concentrate in a bowl together with the syrup. Let it merge in about 20 minutes in a bain-marie. Stir well, otherwise some parts of the syrup will have much more THC than other parts."
According to Stefano you have to do the following to transform it into powder:
"Take a cup of milk, about 10 cl. Throw it in the cannabis syrup you made. Stir well, and let it rest in the fridge for the two days."
This story originally appeared in Dutch on MUNCHIES NL.