Lebanon is a country that has fascinated us deeply. As soon as we landed in the middle of the night, we took a local mini bus that took us straight into the heart of the Bekaa valley. Arriving in the early hours of the morning with the sun just starting to illuminate the peaks of the mountains before our eyes was something magical that filled us with awe and that we will never forget.
Before arriving to the Bekaa valley we saw the scenery changing drastically, from the concrete jungle of the capital to the vast green land, a place that reminded us of other places we have already visited. Turkey and Morocco for example. We have been to only two regions but the diversity we have encountered made us think it was not the same country!
The Bekaa valley is an inland plateau, situated 1000 metres above sea level, is sandwiched between the Mount and Anti-Lebanon ranges. The Bekaa (or Bequaa) is drier than the rest of Lebanon with more pronounced climatic extremes. Summers are hot and dry, while winters are cold and frosty. It is also an area where there is an incredible abundance of water, both under the ground and the water provided by the mountains.
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of some really serious and important information and details about the production of hash in this land. In a very short article we will try to cover all aspects of this topic: from the plowing of the land when the harvest season is over (or just before the new season commences) to the sowing of the seeds to the harvesting of the plants, storing and extracting the resin famous all over the world.
Are you ready? Ok let’s start… Ops, before we start, what you’re about to read is the story told by a famous and respected person who is well known in the Bekaa. We have interviewed him and asked him to provide his version of the facts. He has become a very good friend now and should you have questions to ask, we’ll happily send them over and wait for a reply. We made our best to translate what he wrote (arabic).
” In the eleventh month (November) we plow the earth using big four-wheel tractors and we leave the earth to rest until the fourth (April) or fifth (May) month depending on the elevation and the climate of the area.
When the beginning of spring arrives between the fourth (April) and fifth (May) month we start to sow the seeds using one kilogram of seeds for each square kilometre (acre) of irrigated land (up to two kilograms max). For the non irrigated land we use between two to three kilos.
After we have sown the seeds we have two methods to choose from. One is spraying and sprinkle the ground with chemical fertilizers like ammonium nitrate or the natural ones made from cow or goat dung or any natural fertilizer you wish to use, then we plow the earth using tractors that have five rails attached to them.
We plow the earth several times in order to make sure that the soil is ready and the water is well absorbed by the earth during irrigation.
After one month when the seedlings have sprouted, the farmers weed out any harmful plants from around the cannabis seedlings, (this job is done manually by Syran workers), then after a week the farmers sprinkle a fertiliser known as “46” and start to irrigate the soil. Not all farmers choose this fertiliser though.
Here the irrigation is done according to the nature of the land (humidity, elevation, plant thirst…) for example for a land at an elevation of 1500 metres above sea level the land is irrigated every 20 days. In the 8th month (August) farmers remove the male plants and rarely they leave them in the fields.
When the end of August approaches you can already feel that it starts to get cooler at night and progressively colder at night. The temperature falls sharply in the first hours of the morning just before sunrise and now is when the process of the forming of the resin starts and you can see it forming in the vicinity of the seed cup and remains so until the end of the ninth month (September).
In the ninth month (September) is when farmers start harvesting. Typically the farmers start to harvest when they see the colours of the plants turn to a golden yellow and the leaves start falling off the plants. It means that the plant has reached its maturity and is ready to end its life cycle.
After harvest the plants are then dispersed in the fields and left to dry exposed to sunlight for 4 to 7 days. During this time plants dry up and become stiff. Then the farmers start to fill the bags with the dried plants or wrap the plants in large burlaps where one burlap can weigh between 50 to 70 kg.
From the field the plants are then transported to garages near farmers’ houses and left there for 3 more months, until the 12th month (December), when night temperatures drop below minus 3 to minus 7 degrees Celsius and day temperatures range between 7 to 12 degrees Celsius above zero.
In these places (where plants are left after harvest) starts the process of separating materials from wood or separating leaves and tops (buds) bearing resin from wood. People start “hitting” the plants using a tool that looks like a fork called الشاعوب (sha’oub) to separate the wood material from the leaves and flowers (buds) that carry the resin. We use the wood material too. It is for heating.
After separation, the screening process is carried out by machines equipped with multiple sieves where the seeds are separated from the resin and the other materials known as hemp straw. These sieves are used in petroleum refining. They are said to be made of steel and silk.
They are very fine sieves that allow only the resin to pass through and subtract the crushed leaves (hemp straw) and thus separate the resin from other materials. The farmers use sieves of different sizes and filtering.
Then come the next process which is that of separating the resin from each other and dividing it into a first, second, third and fourth grade/press. The resin is divided into 4 classes.
- The first class is the purest and is called “habou” (الهبو). This is the soul of hashish and contains a very high percentage of THC and is packed into bags and tanks to be kept and stored.
- The second class is called “zahra” ( الزهرة ). It means “flower” and contains less THC than the first.
- The third class is somewhat light and called kabsheh ( كبشة ).
- The fourth class is emulsified THC using some solvents or discarded in the soil as fertilizers. It fights weeds.
The seeds are sold and a portion is left aside and stored for cultivation next year, and a part of it is used to make good-tasting sweets called sesame.
The first class “habou” (الهبو) or resin will have a specific colour according to the nature of the earth. The red land at a height of 1000 meters gives a semi-red colour to the resin.
The land above 1500 meters is red or otherwise the resin is almost yellow. Sometimes light green. Sometimes it is golden in colour and it comes from plants that grow and live without any irrigation at all. The 1st class colour depends on the colour of the land, if it’s red soil then it’s red.
Then it’s packed in bags and sold worldwide. The trader then buys the crop and packs it in bags that have a symbol indicating the source of the resin, where it comes from. Its origin.
After plowing in October or November leave the land resting until the next spring. Plow and plant and add fertilizer and after germination when the cannabis seedlings become 10 to 20 centimeters tall and weeds are removed from them and plants are irrigated every four to 15 days according to the nature of the land and the altitude at which the plants grow.
After, in the eighth month (August) cull male plants. In the ninth month (September) harvest begins and then they are dispersed in the fields and under the sun until they become stiff (completely dry). Collect the crop and store in garages in homes. Until the winter comes in early December, and the first month (January) then the weather has become cold.
Farmers start to separate the resin from the dried plants and then sift through them. Sieve and separate the material from each other and sift with very fine sieves and separate the resin materials into finer materials according to the proportion of the material in THC and stored.
Questions and Answers
Question: How many grams (more or less) of dried buds does a full mature plant give? A plant that is well taken care of, that is, watered and fertilized. How many grams of dried buds do you get from a female plant (not pollinated by a male plant) ?
Answer: Here people don’t use the flowers. They don’t consume buds. It’s not in our culture, so I can only talk about resin extraction. According to the type and size of the plant, whether it is big or small and usually with an average rate that gives between 5 to 10 grams and the unvaccinated (untreated, not watered, not fertilized etc.) it gives between 10 to 15 grams but with an excellent quality of the resin.
Question: Do you know the name of the person who introduced this plant to the country? The name of the person who first brought the seeds of this plant to Lebanon?
Answer: The person who introduced this plant is the deputy who passed away more than 10 years ago and his name is Qablan Issa Al-Khoury. During the French occupation, he was a consulate of France in Afghanistan in 1924 and he brought the seeds from Afghanistan and gave them to Mukhtar Al-Yamounah. At that time his name was Hamad Abdul Nabi Sharif.
Question: In what year did this person bring seeds to Lebanon?
Question: Who taught the dry sieve method to the Lebanese people? We heard it’s a method from Afghanistan. Is this true? Can you confirm that?
Answer: As for the current sieving method, it is an innovation from the people in the Bekaa Valley. Previously, they would “beat” the plant and collect its dust, which gathered on the walls and ceilings (same techniques is/was used in Egypt). And they work on types of screens, which are the same as the ones used in oil refineries. These screens have numbers (calibers/gauges/sizes). These screens have numbers in terms of filtering degree, for example: caliber 60, which is the first stage for extracting the resin from the first mix of hashish hay (mashed leaves and seeds). Then caliber 80. Then the caliber of 120. Then, caliber 160, which is the most recent one, where excellent materials are extracted from hashish resin which is highly saturated with THC.
Question: When does harvest happen in the Bekaa valley?
Answer: From the 9th of September until the 30th of September.
This is a short video clip showing how the extraction happens in the Bekaa between December and January.