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11 best cannabis strains of the 2021 harvest

Published on October 19, 2021 · Last updated October 26, 2021

America’s millions of cannabis lovers, get ready for an overflowing cornucopia of chronic.

As you read this, the nation’s world-class ganja farmers have thousands of metric tons of outdoor-grown pot air-drying in cool, darkened rooms. Thousands of sun-grown varieties will boggle dispensary shoppers’ minds this fall and into 2022.

Flower fact: Cannabis is an annual, fast-growing, bush sown in the spring and chopped by October. Prohibition drove growers indoors decades ago, but nowadays, outdoor and greenhouse-grown bud rival the best indoor. Outdoor also costs much less.

Pair legalization with amazing breeders, growers, and sunny weather, and boom: “There’s a huge-ass harvest out there,” said Daniel Hendricks at the influential HendRx Farm nursery in the nation’s cannabis heartland, Humboldt County, CA.

Rimrock Farms’ harvest team hangs cannabis flower branches to dry in Calaveras County, CA. (Photo courtesy Rimrock Farms)

So what are the quintessential, 11 best cannabis cultivars of the 2021 harvest? The trendsetters and exemplars? Who are the Most Valuable Players in this $18.3 billion legal industry? What flavors did outdoor and greenhouse farmers grow tons of because the people demand them?

Leafly News has got you. We’re independent, and we grow, grind, and pack bowls daily. We secret shop, conduct interviews, trawl conferences, lurk Instagram, and scan search data.

Here’s the best of the harvest, destined for your bubblers by Danksgiving. Look for these 11 strains and their close cousins for that undeniable fire in your life.

Strains highlighted in this article:

  1. Ice Cream Cake
  2. Kush Mints
  3. Tropic Runtz
  4. Modified Grapes
  5. Marshmallow OG
  6. Mimosa #3
  7. Sour Tangie
  8. Prayer Pupil
  9. Hella Jelly
  10. Pennywise
  11. MAC Tyson

Ice Cream Cake and crosses

Ice Cream Cake (Photo by Jeffrey Oropeza, Courtesy Dark Heart Nursery)

Don’t hate the Cake, hate the game. Ganja farmers grew literal tons of Ice Cream Cake and its kin, because smokers coast-to-coast love it day or night.

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“Ice Cream Cake is here to stay,” said Hendricks.

The soft, sweet vanilla smell; the rich, fragrant smoke melting into notes of dank gas—Ice Cream Cake runs high in THC yet won’t give you The Fear.

It stands on the shoulders of giants: Wedding Cake crossed with Gelato #33, bred by the #1 in the game, Seed Junky Genetics.

ICC took a 2019 Emerald Cup in the greenhouse category and this crowd fave grows well indoors or out. Its bag appeal, nose appeal, and versatility make it the number three most searched strain on Leafly in 2021 in the US.

Greenhouse-grown Blue Velvet Cake by Rimrock Farms, CA. (David Downs/Leafly)

It’s also very, ahem, re-nameable, said Hendricks, in Humboldt. “I don’t think it all goes onto the market as ‘Ice Cream Cake.’”

See also in 2021: Blue Velvet Cake, Oreo Cake, Rozay Cake, and Runtz Cake

Kush Mints and kin

A field of Honeydew Farms Gush Mints finishes up. (Photo courtesy Honeydew Farms)

The heads have spoken. They like their Cookies strains minty and heavy-hitting for that red-eyed nighttime munchie sesh.

This elite cross of Animal Mints and Bubba Kush has spent the last 18 months clawing into the top 25 strains in the US on Leafly.

First bred indoors by Seed Junky Genetics of LA, Kush Mints now cavorts outdoors in the fields, getting it on with other top strains, resulting in big crosses like Gush Mints. Sploosh.

Greenhouse grower Allen Hackett of MD Farms in Salinas, CA loves growing Gelato x Kush Mints—it’s hearty and fat.

Rimrock Farms’ summer light dep Purple Kush Mints 2021 turned out lovely. (David Downs/Leafly)

“Seed Junky killed it with this one,” Hackett said.

See also: Purple Kush Mints, Sunset Mints

Tropic Runtz and friends

Ridgeline Lantz (Courtesy Ridgeline Farms)
Ridgeline LANTZ is Green Lantern x Ice Cream Cake x Runtz. (Photo by Redwood Country Photography, Courtesy Ridgeline Farms)

Ring the alarm, here comes a tsunami of Runtz crosses like White Runtz, Pink Runtz, and Blue Runtz; exclusives like Ridgeline Farms’ LANTZ; and of course, fake Runtz.

Leafly gave the Zkittlez and Gelato cross the Strain of the Year title in 2020, so farmers tripled down in 2021. Dive into them all this fall, including Exotic Genetix’s Tropic Runtz, which crosses Runtz with Tropic Truffles (Tropicana Cookies x Mint Chocolate Chip).

“[Tropic Runtz] has one of the most insane, mind-numbing citrus aromas I’ve ever smelled on cannabis,” said Ben Caldwell, cultivation director for F5 Farms in Tulsa, OK, where cannabis exploded this year.

If it’s a Zkittlez and cookies cross—smoke it!

Gazzungaz (Zkittlez x Rainbow Chip) will stink up the block. (David Downs/Leafly)

See also: Gazzungaz

Modified Grapes and other GMOs

Modified Grapes. (Photo courtesy Coastal Sun Farm)

This year’s a banner year for the savory cannabis movement led by GMO (aka Garlic Cookies), but also includes funky Breaths like Peanut Butter Breath.

Keep an eye on all the GMO crosses this harvest season—they dump hash and are very pungent and strong.

The power players at Symbiotic Genetics added Purple Punch to GMO to get Modified Grapes, which is just starting to take off among outdoor growers. Coastal Sun Farm of Santa Cruz grew a grip of it.

“There’s a lot of eyeballs on it. My guys are saying, ‘When are we getting that Modified Grapes in the library?’” said Hendricks.

Motorbreath towers at Sonoma Hills Farm. (David Downs/Leafly)

Grill something adventurous and pair it with this indica hybrid. Just remember to turn the burners off.

See also: Motorbreath, PB Souffle, and Banana Puddintain (GMO x TK Skunk) by Redwood Remedies.

Marshmallow OG

Bred by Compound Genetics, and grown by Pistil Point—meet Marshmallow OG. (Photo by Compound Genetics)

Every harvest season needs an OG Kush cross. This year—marshmallow. Why not?

It smells OG yet marshmallowy, and comes from a prestigious mix of Chemdog D, Triangle Kush, and Jet Fuel Gelato. OG lovers love it.

Bred by Compound Genetics, HendRx Nursery hunted one Marshmallow OG variety, Node Labs tissue-cultured another. Marshmallow OG is in production nationwide—ready for your after-work, indica-hybrid, kick-back sesh.

Mimosa #3

Mimosa #3 (Photo courtesy Booney Acres)

Purp fans need love too. I’m talking about strains that look purple, smell like a grape drink, and contain classic purple genetics.

Scoop up the latest modern purps like all the Mimosa crosses, including Mimosa #3, grown outdoors organically by Booney Acres in California. Symbiotic Genetics’ Mimosa (Clementine x Purple Punch) has gone global in just three years.

This hybrid is eminently wake-and-bakeable. And the thick, tropical flavors from Mimosa and family make fantastic hash.

If you want to see where flavors are going, watch the hash flower growers—they dictate broader strain trends. For example, the psychedelic, Sasquatch-loving Booney Acres crew grow flower for Papa’s Select’s solventless hash line.

“Booney is so dope,” said Hendricks. “He moves from planet to planet, I think. His feet never touch the ground.”

See also: Papaya Punch, Kombucha #6, Gelonade

Sour Tangie

Redwood Remedies Sour Tangie. (Photo by CannaPics, Courtesy Redwood Remedies)

Flabbergasted by these newfangled weeds? Get back to the root of the fruit with a Sour Tangie.

Bred by DNA Genetics, Sour Tangie crosses two sativa hybrid legends—East Coast Sour Diesel to Crockett’s Tangie.

Sour Tangie’s classic rowdiness can go toe-to-toe with any of the new kind on the block. In April 2021, Redwood Remedies received an Emerald Cup in the 2020 greenhouse category.

“Sour Tangie is a badass,” Hendricks agrees. “That’s a staple—it’s not going anywhere.”

This strain smells super sour and citrusy with a big, dank bottom. It gets us daytime lit—not racy or sweaty, just lifted and engaged. It’s a good afternoon party smoke.

Prayer Pupil

Common Roots Cannabis, WA’s Prayer Pupil. (Photo courtesy Common Roots Cannabis)

Where my weird sativa heads at? You know, the folks who hate the dessert strain craze? The ones pining for fjords full of old school Thai landraces?

Strap in for a religious encounter—Mass Medical Seeds’ Prayer Pupil is reaching to the sky, coast to coast.

Let’s start with the reputation of its parents: Star Pupil and Prayer Tower.

  • Mass Medical’s Star Pupil crosses Thai and Afghani landraces. Groovy.
  • Prayer Tower comes from mythical, mysterious breeder Bodhi Seeds, and is a Lemon Thai pheno.

Are you sweaty and trippin’ yet? You will be when you hit this 30% THC, soapy, hashy, creamy, lavender-tasting bud.

“Can be very psychedelic and multiple users reported closed-eye visuals,” the Mass Medical Seeds catalog says.

“It can be a bit intense, fluttering or racing at first but settles down into more of a euphoric feeling,” said Matt Armbruster, cultivator at Common Roots Cannabis in Washington.

Thoughts and prayers!

Hella Jelly

Hella Jelly, aka Jelly Rancher, looks like a sativa but finishes like an indica. (Photo courtesy Humboldt Seed Company)

Let’s plant the flag—Hella Jelly is the next game-changing sativa hybrid.

The potent, deliciously sweet, and energetic cross of Very Cherry and Notorious THC is one season old, but the data is rock solid.

Hella Jelly will be selling out in dispensaries through at least 2023, Hendricks said.

“So many people are testing it and loving it. We love it—it’s very unique. It’s totally different in a way that fits into a big, heavy, mega-producing facility,” he said.

Jelly yet? Hella Jelly, fresh out of the drying room. (David Downs/Leafly)

We grew it and concur. Helly Jelly from feminized seeds is vigorous and yields ample, frosty, resinous green nuggets that electrify the air with notes of blue cotton candy, strawberry, and grapes. It tests notoriously high in THC to boot—like, sweep your kitchen at 11:30pm, high.

Farmers are growing fields of Hella Jelly—from Briceland Forest Farm in Humboldt to Damian Marley’s Evidence brand grow in a former prison in Coalinga, CA, to Glass House Farms in Santa Barbara County.

Hashmakers are making Hella Jelly sauce that’s gonna make you hella jelly.

Humboldt Seed Co. searched through 10,000 plants just to find a solid genetic chassis for this sativa. It’s modern cannabis agronomy incarnate.

“We’re ecstatic that Leafly loves it,” said Nathaniel Pennington, founder at Humboldt Seed Co. “It’s definitely a strain that has a major presence this year.”

And there’s even more big news for the cultivar coming this winter…

See also: Buddha’s Hand, Raspberry Parfait


The balanced CBD: THC strain Pennywise. (Photo by Kandid Kush, Courtesy Esensia Gardens)

Why get your CBD from randoms on the internet when you can get it from world-class weed growers? Ditch the truck stop CBD for a terpene-rich, top-tier type 2 strain this harvest.

Our money is on Pennywise, a tasty, award-winning 1:1 CBD:THC cultivar from Subcool /TGA Genetics. Subcool lost his genetics in a fire in Santa Rosa, CA, and then died in 2020. His life’s work lives on in the piney, sweet, dank, lemony, woody, peppery, and floral bud, with its calming, mood-improving ability.

A cross of Harlequin and Jack the Ripper, Pennywise has taken root across elite North American gardens. Artisanal sun-growers Esensia Gardens of Mendocino, CA won 2nd place in CBD flower in the 2021 Emerald Cup with their local line of it.

“That Pennywise is rad,” said Hendricks.

Pennywise trichomes under the microscope. (Photo by Kandid Kush, Courtesy Esensia Gardens)

Scoop up some near you. Then go do some ganja yoga.

See also: Pink Boost Goddess

MAC Tyson and team

MAC Tyson’s aroma is hard to dodge. (Photo courtesy Decibel Farms)

Sometimes you need to go down for the count. You may need a MAC cross.

Breeder Capulator created MAC (Miracle Alien Cookies) for indoor gardens, but fresh crosses of MAC built for outside just chunked out in the fields this year.

Decibel Farms in Oregon crossed MAC to the outdoor workhorse Purple Punch. The hearty, chunky, purple face-smasher MAC Tyson is the result. These indica-dominant nugs smell loudly sweet, cookieish, and purply. While Purple Punch is notorious for hitting lightweight, MAC hits like dynamite.

“It’s so loud and tasty,” said Shawn Bishop at Decibel Farms in Oregon—America’s number two cannabis production state.

MAC Tyson goes great with some weekend retro gaming on SNES. Boot up all the MAC crosses this fall.

See also: MAC Melon, Banana MAC

And that’s the 11 best strains of the 2021 harvest. Big thanks to all the ganja farmers big and small!

So long, 2021 outdoor season. Up next—awards season. (Photo by CannaPics, courtesy Redwood Remedies)
So long, 2021 outdoor season. Up next—awards season. (Photo by CannaPics, courtesy Redwood Remedies)

Keep the celebration going—shout out your favorite harvest strains and growers in the comments below.

Cover image—Hella Jelly, grown by The Bud Farm, Nevada County, CA. (Courtesy The Bud Farm). Freelance journalist Zack Ruskin contributed to this story.

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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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