I met my friend Sergio, the self proclaimed “Herbalista of Barcelona,” in front of the Barceloneta Metro station late in the morning. The Metro transported us quickly to the outer limits of the city. We waited to get a bus toward our final destination far into the surrounding hills. We skinned up a spliff of Blueberry bud and fired it up as we waited. A smile radiates to my consciousness. The bus arrives and fifteen minutes up the mountains, we reach the destination. Departing the bus while marveling at spectacular vistas, life moves on.
Winding through twisted streets, verdant green vegetation abundant everywhere, we arrive in front of a large gated Finca. The massive house sits at the apex of a huge flat stone courtyard; just visible through the large spiked gates. Next to the gates, embedded into huge brownstone walls surrounding the property, is an intercom/buzzer. We ring it. In a couple minutes a squawk comes over the intercom. Sergio told the box that we had arrived. I heard it belch up something unintelligible. In a few seconds the massive metal gates began to gradually open like the gates of heaven. We push forward to the huge central courtyard. Off to the right several massive German Shepherds were passionately barking, contained only by their huge cages.
Coming towards us, out of a garage built into the house, appears a young spectacled lad with a warm engaging smile. This is Habir. We join Habir and walk back into the large garage. Habir and Sergio start to chat away in Catalan. Habir lowers the huge electric garage doors and the warm natural sunlight is slowly replaced with the incandescent glow of fluorescent fixtures. Things get serious.
Habir and Sergio bring out a long table, placing it across the width of the garage. There is already a rope, like those used for drying cloths, strung across the garage. The rope now hangs eye level above the table. Laying plain brown paper onto the table and taping it firmly, Habir turns to tell me it is time to go into the grow chamber. Walking to a corner of the garage, at the entrance to the house, he pressed a panel. A small door appears in the wall. Habir removed the doors’ lock and swings it open. I felt a chill up my spine. An entrance leading down a very steep old rock staircase comes into sight.
There are about a dozen steps directly down to a steep sloping passage, about a meter wide, extending downwards far into the distance. It is mostly jagged and raw, carved from the rock of the mountains. We proceed downwards, encountering a large crevice carved into the walls to the left of the corridor. In the crevice rest shelves filled with mini greenhouses. Each mini greenhouse filled with various cutting strains to replace the plants being harvested.
We proceed another 10 meters down the dark corridor encountering another larger crevice. Here live the mother plants. Lined up in a haphazard way, falling in all directions and looking like a general mess of stringy plants. These are the direct mothers where the clones are made from. Habir is proud to point out the Bob Marley and Chronic plants, original and still producing potent clones.
We go further down the long corridor, deeper into the earth; it is dark, very dark. We reached a point where the corridor is sealed with plastic. Habir removed it and explained it was to keep the other lights from reaching the grow room in its night cycle. Absolute darkness for the nighttime hours is needed for the flowering plants in the main room. Another 20 meters down the corridor the glow of metal halides outlines the edges of another entrance. Habir removes the last light barrier and we see the real grow room. It was abundant, the aroma intoxicating. We were now somewhere 50 meters under the street in front of the house. I savor the moment. I am getting high just from being there.
The main cavern was huge. A 300 year old cavern, hand honed from the stone mountain. Filled with plants in various degrees of maturity. The fully fruited plants were lush and succulent. Sweet as any I had encountered from growers in Amsterdam. Habir showed me that the temperature was kept at 40 degrees centigrade. The ventilation system was formidable to keep the air circulation rate at 240 cubic meters an hour. The air transfer system was hooked all the way through the length of the hallways, up the stairs, passing up three stories through the house, terminating high above. Out of sight.
Habir started cutting and we started hauling the large buds up the long tunnel to the garage above. After several trips, the portion for harvest was complete. Before I left the main grow room; I took one last look. There were plenty of plants left over. The rotation was set for monthly harvests as the plants remaining were in three distinct variations of maturity. If he put new cuttings in now there would be a similar harvest each 4 weeks. I bid my fond ado and off to the surface I go.
Back on land level I find the already hanging plants are prepared to have their few scraggly leaves cut off. Most of the buds are as large as my fist. There are so many on each stalk it is scary. The sweet smell of Chronic permeates the garage, while the sound of Latin beats sends me into aural bliss. We now cut the few sucker leaves from the buds. Care is taken to put the leaves with glands into a special box for the Ice-a-lator (a means of extracting hashish from leaf or other cannabis materials that have glands on them) cutting and discarding ordinary glandless leaf.
In an hour we have cleared all the leaves from the buds and estimate the harvest at about 4-kg of potent bud when cured. The buds are fat and juicy, massive in structure and fully matured. Some buds with wild sweet hairs and some with HUGE bracts, exquisite. Habir starts to cut buds from the stem for curing. A special curing tent has been constructed in another room of the house, where a fan will slowly circulate fresh air. The buds will slowly cure there and we will return to taste these fruits soon.
With the job at hand finished we head for the kitchen. Habir starts to cook up a meal. Sergio and I set about the task of skinning up some well-deserved joints from the last harvest. The tasting continues as we head to the Growers Cup in Valencia.