Iecava, Latvia - Garlic butter. Peanut butter. Or just butter. All may be household names. Now farmers in the Baltic state of Latvia want to introduce a hitherto unknown butter, cannabis butter, to the world.
"I love it, especially like my grandma used to make," Latvian farmer Dainis Lagzdins said as he invited AFP to taste the dark green butter, a local speciality made of cannabis seed, which he calls a "miracle of taste and flavour."
"Mmm, the taste is heavenly," he said.
Latvian farmers use centuries' old recipes to make the butter or spread at home, sometimes using only soaked, roasted and milled cannabis seed, sometimes mixing it together with oil or butter.
Latvians love it. And unlike the soft drug cannabis, it's legal.
"Only seeds are used for cannabis butter. The narcotic substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is in the resin and blossoms," Janis Strazdins, a narcologist, told AFP.
Latvians usually buy it from farmers or at farmers' markets. The speciality also appears on the shelves of big supermarkets, but not so regularly.
Now Lagzdins, the director of the Iecavnieks company, has ambitious plans from this tiny Latvian village Iecava, 44km south of the capital Riga, to introduce this hitherto unknown product to the world.
"Russian and Finnish salesmen have already shown an interest in our cannabis spread," Lagzdins said, saying he was slightly concerned about whether he will be able to supply the speciality in large quantities.
He is currently finetuning his recipe, but swears by its health qualities - it does not contain milk proteins, or cholesterol, while cannabis seeds are a natural anti-oxidant. Once prepared it can be stored for half a year.
Preparing good cannabis butter is not easy, being done mainly by hand, in 18 different steps.
Although cannabis butter and the cannabis seeds used to make it are legal, Latvia's cannabis fields are under strict controls, and farmers have to get permission to grow cannabis and can only grow it in the open air.
Strazdins told AFP that with Latvia located on the 57th latitude, with short summers and cool and rainy springs and autumns, it was not possible to grow narcotic cannabis.
"It is not possible to grow narcotic cannabis on our latitude, because the period of vegetation is too short, the THC level is low, about 0.5%," Strazdins said.
"However, we cannot exclude theoretically that prohibited hybrid from Holland with THC more than four percent could be brought in and sowed together with other seeds. Therefore these controls on cannabis fields are so important," he said.
Edited by Schalk Jonker
Date: 24 April 2004