Henk is nearly half a century old, but the lanky, laconic businessman still has a Dutch passion for connoisseur cannabis seeds.
"I started smoking and buying cannabis when I was 18," says the founder of Dutch Passion Seed Company. "I noticed the many guilders I was spending, and the seeds in the baggies, so I studied botany and studied biology, and found I liked planting seeds more than I liked books and microscopes. Marijuana was relaxing and fun. I found it incredible that alcohol was legal but this was not."
Henk's memories of Holland's early cannabis genetics trace the evolution of Dutch Euroherb from dinosaur days of "weak, hemplike stuff with low THC that wasn't very good," to the year 2000, when Dutch Passion sells "feminised" seeds of crystal-laden Mazar, Buddha, Original Blueberry, Green Spirit, and other stony varieties.
"Holland had some help improving our genetics from a few Americans who brought seeds over here in the early 80's," Henk explained, "and then we started to develop the reliable early foundations ? Skunk #1, Northern Lights, Haze. We made some trips to the Himalayas. It was fun but difficult, and all the time we were doing rigorous selection and crossing for homogenous strains.
"Dutch Passion started 13 years ago. We have seen it all. There were problems ? rumors and backstabbing ? in the early days, which has changed somewhat now that the seed companies are established and have their own market; things have settled down a bit. But people still take our strains and do knock-offs. A lot of other peoples' purple varieties originated with us, but at least we have copyrighted some of our seed names.
"Trust is what we sell with our seeds: they have 95 percent germination rate, and we tell customers how uniform our strains are. Some are more so than others. Green Spirit, Mazar, White Widow, Blueberry, Flo ? these are very stable," he says, handing me commercial sample envelopes containing pungent nuggets of Dutch Passion bud.
Packets opened, I sampled. The Blueberry and Mazar burnt like the sun, their silky smoke slipped smoothly down my throat and crept up into my synapses. THC receptors clicked open and locked on to the exogenous anandamide. Suddenly, it became more tolerable that we have been traffic-trapped in Henk's car for 45 minutes.
But Henk isn't smoking.
"I have a business to run, so I only smoke about four times a week, about eleven at night, and then I sleep. I like Sativas a lot more than Indicas," he says, elated because he's finally found a parking space. "I need a clear high. Indica causes me to fall back in the chair and not be able to get up again!"
Upstairs above the hemp store, Green Lands, which contains quality internationally-made hemp food, textiles and cosmetics, he remembers when small-time growers produced five to ten kilos a year of coffeeshop bud. Prices and quality have changed. Now, the best Dutch cannabis sells for 8000 guilders per kilo (which equals about $2000 US per pound)- about half as expensive as comparable pot in the United States, he notes.
Good taste is important, he says. People would admit, if their taste buds were up to it, that hydro pot doesn't taste as good as "bio" pot.
"Like with hydroponic tomatoes and cucumbers," he quips, "you can taste the difference. I always like growing in soil, but I can understand why people do hydro: try living on the third floor of an old Amsterdam building, carrying bags of soil up twisty stairs. Hydro is a lot easier to set up and control, and the yield is higher per square meter with hydro," he said.
Of course, pound for pound, seeds are worth more than bud.
"The problem is, it's harder to sell the seeds. You can sell all the bud you can grow. Seeds are more of a specialty market. People don't smoke them. They don't move quite as fast," he said.
But Dutch Passion has figured out a surefire way to sell more seeds, by creating "feminised" varieties engineered to produce only female plants.
Henk admits that when Dutch Passion first released feminized seeds in November 1998, many people were skeptical.
"It was very difficult to make these seeds," he explained. "There were several years of experiments that went into this. At first, we relied on the fact that if you let females flower a long time without getting pollen, near the end of their life cycle some will try to pollinate themselves. But this did not produce a reliable amount of pollen. Then, we tried hormone and chemical agents. The hormone produced pollen, but it also affected the plants in other ways that we didn't like. We tried other applications, and found some that could change basic female plants into plants that produced pollen, which we then used to fertilize other 100% female plants to produce what we used to call ?female seeds.'
"A lot of people think we have created hermaphrodites, but we take 100% female clones, and apply a safe chemical so the clones produce abundant male flowers. Then we take that pollen and fertilize other females with it. Seeds from this method will usually grow out female.
"In the beginning, some people were telling us that the seeds weren't producing all females, but we've discovered some strains don't work well with this process, and some of the success depends on the way they're grown. Now, we aren't getting those complaints. I sell a guy 300 seeds, and 298 of them grow out female. We are seeing that level of reliability."
Research and improvement
As with any new technology, Dutch Passion's feminized strains have experienced growing pains. Some varieties have not adapted well to the feminizing procedure and are no longer sold. Henk no longer calls his special seeds female, either.
"They are not female seeds," he explains. "They are seeds that have been created a certain way to produce female plants, but it is not accurate to call them female seeds. We call them feminized seeds ? there is a difference."
Henk says it's a lot harder to produce feminized seeds than regular seeds, and he has to be careful about feminizer technology and its resultant pollen. As with Terminator Seed technology utilized by greedy corporations like Monsanto (the company has designed food crops that produce sterile seeds, forcing farmers to buy new seeds from Monsanto every year), plants grown from feminized seeds cannot reproduce naturally; at best, they can be cloned.
If you are growing marijuana so you can produce your own seeds, Dutch Passion's feminized varieties are not for you. For most other growers, feminized seeds offer obvious advantages. Outdoor growers can plant in remote locations knowing they will not have to return during early autumn and remove male plants. All growers can count on increased yields: instead of the average sixty to forty percent female to male ratio, virtually every seed planted will result in a female producing harvestable buds.
Dutch Passion's feminizer testing program revealed that grow room factors can be manipulated to produce better female to male ratios. The female-inducing recipe, to be implemented during the first month of growth, involves providing: 1) more nitrogen, less potassium; 2) more halide (blue spectrum) and less high pressure sodium (red spectrum) lighting; 3) shorter light cycles; 4) a grow medium of 6.6 to 6.8 pH; 5) lower temperatures and higher humidity, plus higher soil moisture; 6) minimized stress (cloning and other stressors can destabilize plants, causing them to go male or hermaphrodite).
Henk is constantly running experiments to fine-tune his feminizer technology. He removed Purple Star from his feminized line because of poor results. Some feminized varieties produce between 80 and 90% females rather than 100%, and a few hermaphrodites have occurred in isolated test crops. Henk has found that Green Spirit, Mazar, Masterkush, Oasis, Blueberry, Buddha, Voodoo, Purple #1 and Trance are the most reliable feminized seeds; he's working to increase the range and dependability of Dutch Passion feminized offerings.
"The difference with Dutch Passion is that we are keeping the trust of our customers by making sure our seeds give them what they expect," Henk says. "We concentrate on ripeness, freshness, and size, and we strive to make strains grow out true. Our goal is to maximize the yield our customers get. I wish I had had Dutch Passion seed company to buy from when I was 18."
? Dutch Passion: www.dutch-passion.nl