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What is a ‘weed salad?’ Tips on cannabis cultivar blending

Published on March 25, 2021 · Last updated November 8, 2022
Mixing cannabis strains can result in new, strong effects. Above: Pink Jesus with Diablo Wind and Cereal Milk. (David Downs/Leafly)
Mixing cannabis strains can result in new, strong effects. Above: Pink Jesus with Diablo Wind and Cereal Milk. (David Downs/Leafly)

What is a “weed salad”?

Millions of cannabis lovers, including you, have probably made at least one, whether you know it or not.

A “salad” is when you mix and smoke up two or more different strains of cannabis blended together in the same bowl.

The term appeared in Urban Dictionary in 2009, though every circle names it different. Weed lovers report salads being called:

  • The blendo
  • Mendo blendo
  • Grower’s surprise
  • House party
  • Cuvee
  • Spring mix
  • Cornucopia
  • Jambalaya
  • Goulash
  • Gumbo
  • One fancy industry person calls it her “estate blend.”

Many ensaladas are born of desperation—two humble stoners combining the last shake from several bags into one full bowl, said Cannabis Pharmacy author Michael Backes.

Backes is also the world’s leading cannabis blend-maker through his California brand, Perfect.

“I’ve discovered salads where it’s a ‘stone soup’ thing; where everybody brings something and throws it in the pot, and goes, ‘Wow, this is really good. What the hell is this?’” he said.

“It can be crap, or it can be a masterpiece you’ll never reproduce.”

Michael Backes, author, Cannabis Pharmacy

“It goes both ways. It can be crap, or it can be a masterpiece you’ll never reproduce.”

Backes made his first salad—some chocolatey, body-buzzing Thai Stick mixed with some piney, euphoric Kona Gold—back in ‘74 or ‘75, he said. “Mixing them was great because you got this symphony rather than a solo.”

For thousands of years, humans have cherished wine, whiskey, and coffee blends. Cannabis breeders certainly spend every day crossing the best of the new with the best of the old for an even better future.

… whether you’re bored, adventurous, or almost out of weed—a salad is the way.

And today, Backes precision-blends cannabis cultivars to target marijuana effects not found in nature.

So whether you’re bored, adventurous, or almost out of weed—a salad is the way.

What weed salads are not

They’re not edible, only smoked

Yes, you can eat or juice raw cannabis leaves for health or fun—but that’s a whole other thing and isn’t considered a weed salad.

They’re not cannabis mixed with other products

Weed salads are cannabis-only smoked blends—not tobacco, or sage, or rose petals, or whatever’s going on with that.

Salad club’s only rule: Care for your greens

Smoke this salad ASAP, or the air will eat your terpenes. (David Downs/Leafly)
Smoke this salad ASAP, or the air will eat your terpenes. (David Downs/Leafly)

Marijuana’s aroma comes from its little stink molecules, called terpenes. These “terps” give cannabis its aroma, flavor, and wide variety of effects. But terps are delicate. Heat, light, air, and time all kill terps. Conserve terpenes by keeping your fresh herb sealed tight, in a cool, dry, dark place.

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When it’s time to blend and smoke, use a very sharp grinder or scissors so you cleanly cut instead of mash the herb.

Lastly, be sure to smoke the salad right away. Don’t leave it sitting out on a table for a day. We’re trying to get terps in our lungs, not perfume the room.

Basic salad tip #1: Pair similar flavors or families

Weed comes in thousands of varieties called “strains” or “cultivars.” But they generally fall into broad categories of flavors. There’s fuel-smelling, or “gassy” strains, fruity ones, earthy and incense-smelling strains; there’s savory, and there’s sweet.

“You have enough variety in the marketplace that if you know what you’re looking for you can get different things to blend,” said Backes.

“It’s up to your personal tastes and preferences,” said Brett Feldman, co-founder of Wonderbrett, a top-shelf indoor flower brand with a new BLENDS product. “There really are no rules. Start with the strains you like the most and experiment from there. It’s like making a smoothie.”

Pair fuel with fuel

This seems pretty intuitive. Got two gassy nugs leftover—like a Larry’s Breath and a Supreme Diesel? Combine for a super pungent, biting experience. The terpenes should match up or complement each other. If you put an OG Kush with a Sour Diesel, you just recreated Headband in a bowl.

You can generally combine strains with others in their strain family. For instance, a GSC and a Wedding Cake are going to taste fine together since GSC is a parent of Wedding Cake.

The only downside here is conformity.

“A bunch of Kushes against each other? You’re blending the same thing with the same thing,” said Backes. “I don’t want to take a brown egg and a white egg and try to make something that tastes different, because it’s not. Take some shallots and an egg, because that’ll make something that tastes different.”

Make a fruit salad

You can pair fruity strains with other fruits, like a Super Lemon Haze with a Tangie for a fruit salad. Add some Papaya for a tropical journey. Think Pineapple Express and Mimosa. Yum.

Blue Dream and Strawberry Cough marry fruit flavors and share Haze genetics for aligned effects.

The top-shelf indoor flower brand Wonderbrett just released its first blend: a tropical and purple mix of Papaya x Grapes of Wrath.

The ready-to-smoke cone joints “deliver a rich and complex flavor profile with unique and consistent effects that can’t be achieved through single-strain or even the best hybrid offerings,” Wondebrett’s Feldman told Leafly. “By combining two exotic terpene profiles, we’re able to provide even more depth and variety for the pre-roll consumers.”

Weed salad tip #2: Pair complementary flavors

It’s hard to find two strains that don’t go together, but some complement each other better than others.

“It’s like cooking—look at what flavors you put together in the kitchen,” said Backes.

Fuel and fruit

Look at existing strain crosses and reconstruct them. For example, Sour Tangie—the sour in Sour Diesel goes great with the citrus in Tangie, you can make that blend on your own.

GSC is thought to be Cherry Pie x Durban (aka “F1 Durban”) crossed to OG Kush. Make a salad of those three strains and see if it hits like cookies.

“Cherry strains go really great with the gas,” said Backes.

Tangie all the things

Breeders crossed everything with Tangie because it works.

“I like to see the outcrosses from Tangie because to me Tangie was a bit of a bass solo,” said Backes.

I challenge you to find a bad partner for Tangie. You’ll be busy.

Advanced salad tip #3: Pair novel flavors

A salad bowl ready to go. (David Downs/Leafly)
A salad bowl ready to go. (David Downs/Leafly)

Put on your weed mad scientist helmet and pioneer a terpene profile not found in nature.

Look to food for inspiration. Your imagination is the limit. Savory Peanut Butter Breath and sweet Jelly Rancher—who’s smoking it first?

Blend a Gelato with a Jack Herer, or a Blue Dream and a Purple for a combo not found in nature.

“Then things start to get interesting,” said Backes.

“You’re going to go, ‘Wow, I haven’t felt that before.’”

Michael Backes—author, Cannabis Pharmacy; founder Perfect blends

Novel blends result in novel combinations of marijuana’s active ingredients. It’s experimental pharmacology, Backes said.

“You’re going to start to see really broad-spectrum effects,” he said. “You’re going to go, ‘Wow, I haven’t felt that before.’”

Blends to avoid

Some flavors just won’t go together, like blueberries and tuna fish—just don’t do it.

Skunk and Lavender are two strains we’ve never seen breeders combine, and for good reason. Sometimes opposites do not attract.

Backes flags purples and oranges as “not going to taste good.” For example, the Tangie and Mimosa cross Forbidden Fruit smells a little too ripe to some people.

Pro salad tip #4: Pair for effects

Thinking about strain name or food flavor combinations can help point you to novel weed blends, but they only scratch the surface. The smell of pot hints at its complex role in cannabis’ effects.

“I like to go a little bit beyond aesthetics and push toward effects, and it’s a little tougher,” said Backes.

Dampen your sativas, or boost your indicas

Sativas overpower some people, so you can take a Super Lemon Haze and mellow it out with a middle-of-the-road hybrid Blue Dream.

“You want to try and balance the effects,” said Backes. “For example, if the purples are kicking your ass, then blend it with something speedy like a Cookies strain.”

Sunset MAC puts me on my butt, but I bet MAC and Jack will keep me in the game.

“That’s a good combination,” said Backes.“MAC is a blunt instrument.”

Mix strong effects carefully

Some stoners are adamantly anti-salad. The mix of strains also mixes effects in a way some don’t like. If you’re a sativa person, mixing in a pure indica like Afghani isn’t going to give you the feeling you want.

Consider avoiding diametrically opposite effects like Green Crack with Herijuana—you could be paranoid and couch locked.

Or mix adventurously

We’ve all had invulnerable college years. We’ve all explored our limits. In salads, that might mean taking a teeth-clenching sativa like Trainwreck and throwing some heart-pumping AK-47 on there, and seeing if you can pierce the veil of our space-time continuum.

Maybe you want to go the other way and combine two deep indicas—LA Confidential and Hindu Kush—and travel the astral plane for a day. You do you; just stay hydrated.

“I’ll blend Green Crack with OG Kush,” said Backes. “Your lips go numb. It’s super fun.”

Doctorate salad tip #5: More complex THC/CBD blends

Getting your friends too high? Try blending in some high-CBD trees to lower the potency. You could even buy terpene-rich hemp flowers to cut down on the potency.

THC is the main active ingredient in cannabis powering its effects. CBD acts like a brake on THC, lowering the euphoria. Add some CBD-rich AC/DC or Harlequin to turn the volume down on most THC strains.

“When you start blending cannabinoids, that introduces a whole other level of complexity,” said Backes.

Backes said CBD can lengthen a THC high by keeping THC in your system longer. CBD also helps to prevent tolerance to THC, he said, “which is an issue if you smoke a lot of THC.”

Super Saiyan salad tip # 6: Master terpenes and terpology

A strain’s aroma, name, and its indica/strains/hybrid designation are all simplified ways to comprehend the hugely complex world of cannabinoids like THC and the aroma molecules—the terpenes.

Once you know the names of different aroma molecules in cannabis, you can start pairing like Backes.

It’s the difference between enjoying driving a car versus knowing how an engine works.

“It’s been brutal to try to actually blend Perfect. I’ve failed so many hundreds of times, I can’t even tell you,” he said. “But for nerds like me, I like to be under the hood.”

Beyond THC: It’s time to assert the primacy of terpenes

Cannabis can contain over 100 different terpenes, and there are about a dozen common ones. Terpenes appear in different ratios in different strains, or the same strain differently grown.

Myrcene is the biggest terpene family—it includes Tangie, Forbidden Fruit, Cherry AK, and Blue Dream.

“The advantage to myrcene is its high impact but it doesn’t last very long,” Backes said.

So Perfect’s Nightcap is a blend of strains rich in myrcene, linalool, “and a couple of other terps that can really put you on your butt; though I intentionally soften their impact to improve their manners, which makes it usable in the day.”

What are cannabis terpenes and what do they do?

The second most dominant terpene is beta-caryophyllene, found in GSC, Gelato, and Runtz and other “gassy” fuel-smelling strains. It’s the center of gravity for terpene preferences in America right now, said Backes. That’s even though “it can make you pretty edgy with THC.”

Perfect’s Pick Me Up blend is caryophyllene-dominant “with some surprises,” he said. “It’s very, very ‘up’ for most people.”

Trainwreck, Dutch Treat, Jack Herer, and Super Lemon Haze are all rare, terpinolene-dominant strains.

Perfect’s ‘Happy Camper’ blends terpinolene and limonene, “which is very unusual in cannabis, but I discovered that result is pure euphoria,” said Backes.

Reminder salad tip #7: Don’t overthink it

Craft brew lovers and perfume wearers don’t spend all day naming terpenes. So don’t stress over your blend or get too haughty about it.

“The truth is nobody cares. Tell me the five dominant terpenes in Chanel No. 5? They’re in there,” said Backes. “You have no idea what they are.”

We all started making salads during times of cannabis scarcity—it was about survival. The next step was frickin’ resin hits. Resin! Yuck!

Today’s goal remains the same: roll up, get elevated, and relax.

Backes said, “after a while, you start to run into things that really work.”

Bonus blend facts

  • According to the Oxford dictionary, “blend” is an awesome Scandinavian word from the old Norse word blanda, meaning “to mix.”
  • According to one longtime industry buyer, “When a blunt consists of a blend of material from several roaches, that’s a ‘generational blunt.’”
  • Don’t buy weed for THC, said Backes, buy for terps. “THC is easy to find. Terpenes are harder to find.”

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David Downs
David Downs
Leafly Senior Editor David Downs is the former Cannabis Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. He's appeared on The Today Show, and written for Scientific American, The New York Times, WIRED, Rolling Stone, The Onion A/V Club, High Times, and many more outlets. He is a 2023 judge for The Emerald Cup, and has covered weed since 2009.
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