Tell me about Mandala Seeds history? To some of our readers you may appear to be new on the scene but that's not exactly the case right?
We are in business since 2004 and before that we gathered more than a decade of breeding experience which has flowed into the creation of our strains. I collected landrace seeds in the early 1980's from Mexico and Jamaica and done breeding on my own before, but with no professional goal in mind. I caught up with Jasmin in the fall of 1988. We knew each other from earlier days, but had lost track in-between. On this occasion she told me of her agricultural engagement in India. About a year later I decided to follow her to India where she was involved in an agricultural development project. With her own jeep and enough spare time at hand, she invited me to travel with her through India and Nepal. This was the most adventurous and exciting time of my life. Since we both liked good pot, Jasmin showed me the most interesting places where wild cannabis was growing. This was like paradise for me. I had never seen something like this before. A two days walk away from Kullu she lived in a house in the foothills of the Himalaya, with an adjoining water mill, in a beautiful spot surrounded by giant, ancient chestnut trees. There she had a ten acre plot of land, laid on fertile terraces, full of sinsemilla cannabis. This was absolutely mind-blowing. Some local families from nearby helped her to take care of the plantation, and would also process the resin into charas. At this pristine place we had for the first time the idea to cross old school and newer strains with fresh landrace genetics. For the next three years however we could not realize this idea, because Jasmin had to fulfill her work contract. So she bought a house in Goa for us to stay there in the winter months when her place in the mountains was covered in snow. Between our travels she supervised the development project she was engaged in. When we eventually left India, we carried with us a lot of cannabis seeds from many different places and sources. Back in Europe we found the quiet place we were looking for to start our breeding career.
When we first introduced Mandala Seeds in February 2004, at the Spannabis fair in Barcelona, a number of cannabis magazines like Spain's Yerba and the German language Grass Times immediately expressed interest in our unique genetics. They ran a couple of lengthy articles and strain reviews. And then Ed Rosenthal caught up with us and featured Satori and Kalichakra in the Big Book of Buds 2. So in a relatively short time growers took notice of our seed bank in Europe and that eventually spread to Canada and beyond. Mike and I share the sentiment to let our genetics do the talking. The popularity of our strains is mainly based on the results growers get out of them and their satisfaction with the plants.
How did the name Mandala Seeds come about?
Every year, when the harvest of Jasmin's cannabis field was completed, she used to donate one donkey load of charas to a Shiva temple, where it was distributed the year over to the sadhu's who visited the temple. On Shiva's birthday there are big festivities with lots of pot being smoked and the traditional hash beverage “bhang” passed around. The priest would make a mandala out of cannabis seeds on the white marble floor in front of a shiva lingum. A “mandala” is a sacred circle and popular in Hinduism and Buddhism. In a ritual that followed he blessed the seeds and the cannabis with invocative prayers and offerings to the ganja God Shiva. After that ceremony the priest distributed some of the charas to the sadhus and handed the blessed seeds from the mandala over to Jasmin. She stored them in a wooden box on her altar at home and sowed them out in the following spring. From this wonderful event we derived our name “Mandala Seeds”.
How important is traveling to collecting landraces?
Traveling is crucial, since native landrace cannabis grows in very remote places on this planet. Some countries are so large it's impossible to discover all the genetic treasures they contain. By the time we left the Indian subcontinent we had traveled 52,000 miles, from the southernmost tip of Kanyakumari to the Tibetan border, and still hadn't been to many promising areas on our list.
I also don't see any option to traveling if you want to be certain about the origins of your seeds and get a first hand experience of the environment the strain is adapted too. Both these factors are important if you work professionally with a strain. We also did field research and returned to places over a period of years. You have to be there when seeds are ripe, or available, otherwise it's just a hike in the wild with nice views but nothing to take back!
Why are landraces so important?
They are so important, because they contain an unbelievable amount of genetic diversity originating from very ancient roots. Landraces are vital for reinvigorating worn out inbred strains and creating new crosses with exceptional characteristics such as pest and heat resistance. The difficult part is in finding the right match and percentage of genetics to create an F1 hybrid that fulfills modern cultivation expectations. It took us years to discover the perfect way how to breed a wild strain into stabilized and adapted cannabis hybrids. But with the first fantastic results coming out of our breeding, the long stony path that led to this success was worth every step of the way.
Why are they disappearing?
Native landraces are disappearing because of several reasons: mainly political and environmental. In some cases excessive drug tourism has led to major crackdowns in places where there used to be a good measure of tolerance. But that is just a side-effect of the political repression in western countries. Certainly the UN led initiative, with the intention to erase this sacred plant from our mother earth until 2008, shows the political force behind the campaigns to destroy cannabis as a species. Everything is being done to convince governments world wide to assist in it. Although I don't believe that this vicious objective can be reached so soon, it is leading to a depletion of the cannabis gene-pool. On the other hand, we are talking about a very tough plant... a real „weed“. Even if certain landraces disappear, it's possible to repopulate areas with other seeds, and after several generations you will see a newly adapted strain spreading out. I'm very optimistic that the big family of cannabis friends is caring for the future through their limitless and untiring efforts in preserving genetics. What we need to achieve long-term is the general recognition globally that it's high time to protect sacred plant species and their ecosystems.
Tell me about some of your strains and what makes Mandala different?
We believe the first step to a growers' success lies in the seed. That's why we pioneered the production of what we call “Deluxe seeds” and ensure perfect germination on our products before they are shipped to resellers. Normally seeds are made through standard commercial methods, where you work with a large area of cuttings in sea of green style that are thoroughly pollinated. Our seeds are from exceptionally large and specially selected cuttings grown organically. These donor plants are sparsely pollinated to produce large and healthy seeds with a firm seed hull. It has been our experience that individual and attentive care in seed production maximizes the quality of the product in many ways. The next step is to check germination - which is a high priority for us. Every seeded plant is individually tested for optimal results. Through these strict controls we have managed to ensure the best possible seed viability on the market.
Our strains are valued for their efficiency, high performance, and the pleasant and long-lasting high. It's what we call the “package deal”. Good-looking plants and buds with a great buzz. The originality lies in the fresh and novel genetics. The landrace input contributes to delicious and complex aromas with an old school taste and high as in Satori, Hashberry and Sadhu. It's very important for us that the high, whether it's sativa or indica dominated, is strong but doesn't trigger nasty side effects like paranoia, headaches, etc. That's why our strains are predominantly sociable, upbeat, euphoric or creative.
Mandala strains also bring savings: you save on grow time, fertilizer, plant care. The plants are very tough and powerful that are easy to grow. You can spot a Mandala by it's large leaves, thick stems, healthy root growth and fast development. A key feature is their extreme nutrient efficiency because they are bred to be self-sufficient. It's not unusual that they can be grown and harvested in good potting soil without any extra feeding. Mandala's are also highly adaptable to any grow environment or system. Plants can be carried outdoor from indoor and vice versa without having to worry about hermaphrodites. One of our priorities is to reduce genetic weaknesses to a minimum and eliminate the nail-biting that can come up in plant care. It's ideal if a strain can deliver quality and quantity with just basic attention. I know med growers find these attributes a big help because they have less energy, and often a lot of pain, that impedes with the amount of attention they can devote to gardening chores.
We achieve all this through an intensive breeding schedule that takes several years for each strain. All our parent lines and F1 hybrids undergo rigorous testing by us and, eventually, we hit the “jackpot” with just the right combination of genes. Both of us have no sympathies for finicky plants with thin stalks and tiny bud sites. We think in terms of big and beautiful, without compromising compact growth for sea of green purposes. Growers are often surprised at the appearance of our sativas like Satori and Kalichakra. They don't expect such chunky and enormous head buds that are so easy to trim. But large and fat colas with a high calyx-to-leaf ratio are typical for our genetics. The heat resistance of our strains is another Mandala speciality. They can cope with temperatures up to 110-120°F... as long as you don't forget to water!
What cannabis traits are most important for your breeding, growing and smoking purposes?
Most important is vigorous health, so the plant will forgive a growing mistake, which an inbred plant would not survive for example. But vigor is, of course, also important in more positive ways than this. For a grower who wants to keep mother plants their vigor is important twofold. A mother plant should produce enough quality cuttings and rejuvenate herself simultaneously. Together with vigor other factors like the high, yield, resin, aroma and flavour must also be very satisfying for every grower. Therefore our breeding is based on the principle to combine landrace genetics and adapted strains with the best results that serve all purposes equally well.
We also ensure that each strain meets the special requirements that we see in contemporary home-growing. Growers usually have limited space and can only grow a handful of plants...often in a closet or grow box. That's why we breed for plants that can fit into small areas too and still deliver bumper crops. Hashberry and Sadhu are two very good examples. Hashberry buds are extremely dense and packed with resin. This makes even a short plant yield exceptionally well. Another trait we value is that each Mandala strain can be grown from seed, also in SOG style, with excellent results. This is important for growers who have no opportunity to cultivate with cuttings.
Do you have any comment on working together as a couple in your breeding and growing endeavors? Has it made you closer?
It has it's advantages to work as a couple, since this is a profession that is very much based on trust and being able to rely on someone. It's much easier to focus on the work too and less time consuming. We agree on all important goals and, whatever difference there may be in viewpoints, these can be used creatively to open up new ideas. But if a relationship doesn't work in the first place I don't think a room full of sticky marijuana is enough to hold it together!
Many breeders charge hundreds for their seeds yet Mandala Seeds are available for surprisingly less. Is this a company policy?
When we decided on our price policy, it was clear for us from the beginning, to share the success of our breeding with the growers, by offering them fine quality for a low price everybody can afford. We think the growers really deserve it... they already have enough stress elsewhere.
Do you both personally prefer indicas or sativas and why?
Both of us we prefer potent mind-expanding and creative sativas. In Rajasthan we also had, every once in a while, a glass of powerful bhang (a drink made from hash balls, spices, and milk). This contained hand-rubbed charas from North Indian indicas and would send us for a whole day to the floor without a chance to move a limb. Now, however, we have so much work to do, that it's not advisable for us to lie around in a sedated state of bliss!
What makes strains from the Indian Subcontinent special?
Indian genetics are among the most potent in the world. They exist in many ecosystems ranging from tropical to high-altitude. Due to the ancient tradition of using cannabis for spiritual, medicinal, and recreational use Indian landraces have also been cultivated by farmers. Their selective work potentiated the quality of the native genetics in several regions...most notably in the Himalayan foothills.
In different parts of India you can find different plant families with very unique genetic characteristics, which have carried on their traits for thousands of years without much deterioration. Imagine, to smoke some marijuana, identical with the grass a sadhu smoked a thousand years ago. To smoke Indian grass is therefore like time-travel, especially when you smoke it at an ancient site in India.
Do you have any closing words for the readers of High Times?
Love and peace to all of you. Om Namah Shiva!