GREENHOUSE & OUTDOOR COCA CULTIVATION
There are a lot of myths about how difficult it is to grow Coca outside of certain traditional sweet spots in the Andes. That may have been true before contemporary growing under lights came of age, but it no longer applies to small, boutique crops of Coca.
For example, it’s true that coca plants grown at higher altitudes produce a higher ratio of Cocaine to the other 20+ important Coca alkaloids than Coca grown at sea level. But that doesn’t mean that Coca can’t be grown anywhere but in the mountains.
Look at Coffee, Coca’s very close alkaloid relative. Coffee plants offer an exact model for greenhouse Coca cultivation. “Mountain-grown” coffee has a great reputation for a reason – it bathes in ultraviolet light. Pretty much anywhere in the world you can grow good Coffee you can grow good Coca, and that includes any greenhouse or any growing space with the right kind of lighting at any altitude. You may have heard coffee called “Java”? That’s because the best coffee in the world in the 1800’s came from Java. and those coffee plantations were right alongside some of the best Coca plantations in the world scattered throughout the mountains of Java. Still there, I hear tell.
So who would want to grow coffee in a greenhouse? Actually that’s not a bad idea, if you’ve ever tried coffee leaf tea. It’s a pretty amazing beverage, totally unlike the roasted bean, and has many of the benefits of Coca leaf tea. FYI, if you would like to look at complete 200 page detailed guide to growing coffee, where you could pretty much just substitute “Coca” for “Coffee” throughout the guide, check out this free downloadable resource. (Of course I hope you’ll take a look at my new “Coca Cultivators Guide” too.)
But back to the question: why is high altitude always better for Coca? That’s what all the historical records say, and that’s why all the traditional Cocals are at altitude. Coca plantations in the jungle are only because it doesn’t matter to the cocaine trade how high quality the leaves are – you can extract the Cocaine from low-quality jungle leaf just the same. But for highest quality leaf – you have to head for the light- or bring it in.
The secret to high quality coffee and Coca leaf is ultraviolet light, which is more intense the higher the altitude and the closer you are to the equator.
So if you’re growing outdoors, grow somewhere that provides high levels of natural UV. But, when you are growing in a greenhouse, you can produce as much
ultraviolet and other key parts of the spectrum as your Coca plants need to thrive, in just the right balance, throughout their life cycle.
To grow great Cannabis indoors, you use high-intensity grow lights set up to allow you to vary the spectrum. It’s the same with Coca, the Opium Poppy, Coffee and every other treasured plant growing indoors under lights- there is an ideal spectrum for each point in the plant’s life cycle. I’m pretty sure that you could look at solar data for the Coca regions of the Andes and come up with an ideal spectrum map for greenhouse Coca. This is one of those areas where growers will gradually accumulate experience and it will become community knowledge. Right now it is all speculation but I’m working on it.
The idea of growing a personal crop of Coca leaf for medicinal use will have to take a lot of mental adjustment, because there is a lot of misleading advice , like “You can only grow Coca at high altitudes in the Andes”, which seems somehow almost deliberately discouraging.
Could it be that there is a bit of dis-information going on? Maybe spreading the idea that growing Coca is too difficult so why bother?
Inquiring minds might want to know if its really true that nobody has ever grown Coca anywhere but Colombia, Peru and Bolivia.
With my grateful thanks to my friends who read this blog and have been asking me to write a book on growing Coca just like Cultivators Handbook of Marijuana I wrote back in 1969 to help kickstart the Cannabis revolution – here it is. The Coca Cultivators Handbook. Let the games begin.
Here are the topics covered in this First Edition – I am asking growers worldwide to contribute ideas and content for future editions.
- Summary Of Coca Cultivation Techniques
- Coca Cultivation Over The Centuries
- Coca’s Natural Home Environment
- Botany of the Coca Plant: Part One
- Botany of the Coca Plant: Part Two
- Traditional Andean Coca-Growing Regions
- Ideal Coca-Growing Conditions
- The Exquisite Coca Flower
- The Importance Of Humidity
- Coca Soils Of The Montaña
- Best Kinds of Earth For Coca Cultivation
- How To Select Viable Seeds
- Protecting Seeds & Seedlings
- Planting Out & Cultivating Coca
- Daily Life Of A Coca Grower
- High Quality vs. Inferior Coca Leaf
- Peruvian vs. Bolivian Leaf – A Comparison
- Ensuring High Quality Coca Leaves
- Harvesting & Curing Coca Leaf: Part One
- Traditional Harvesting Techniques: Part Two
- Natural Enemies Of Coca
- Commentaries On Coca
- Searching For Wild Coca
- Angelo Mariani – Master Coca Grower
- Coca & Its Therapeutic Properties
- Proper Cultivation Techniques
- Harvesting For Maximum Purity & Potency
- Preparation of the Coca Leaves
- Coca Leaf – A Better Medicine
- Natural Medicinal Preparations Of Coca Leaf
- Your Keys To This Ancient Knowledge
Back to Greenhouses
In another post I discussed the historical evidence, mostly from the 1800’s, of vigorous efforts to introduce of Coca plantings worldwide, and took note of a number of places where Coca was grown as part of a botanical garden or conservatory display of Andean plant life.
A hundred and fifty years ago Coca was grown in almost every public Botanical Garden facility in the world and in quite a few private indoor gardens as well.
Some of the more famous gardens with notable stands of Coca plants (and accompanying displays of how Coca was used by those quaint Andean Indians) include; the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, London; the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Royal Botanic Garden at Sydney, the Gardens at Versailles, and the Jardim Botanico at Rio de Janeiro.
Another beautiful example of an indoor Coca garden was the one created by Angelo Mariani at his company’s headquarters in France.
If you want to learn more about the fabulous Angelo Mariani and his empire of Coca wines, tonics and medicines (and if you can read French) you’ll enjoy exploring the archives of this blog:
So, all these highly successful indoor Coca plant gardens showed that a modest level of Coca plant production is quite feasible and, once the gardens are well-established, they can be self-sustaining over decades. That makes it pretty easy to see that Coca plants can be successfully grown using modern indoor technologies.
Of course the major issue with growing Coca plants indoors is that if you are growing them to produce Cocaine then you are going to have to have a shitload of indoor space and it would probably not be anywhere near profitable even if it were to be legal. This means that high-margin markets would have to be found for the whole natural Coca leaf itself, and followers of this blog know that I see many ways that this can be a viable natural medicine business, as it already is in Peru and Bolivia.
But … now let’s mention the single greatest challenge to indoor Coca growing anywhere outside of Peru, Bolivia and Colombia – and possibly a few other places that remain nameless.
You can grow Coca plants two ways – from seeds or cuttings. The biggest problem with growing from seed anywhere outside of the immediate area where the seed is harvested is that Coca seeds have a very short natural “shelf life”. The seed is protected by an outer protective fruit which begins decaying rapidly, and that renders the seed inside infertile.
However, growers around the world seem to be getting good seed from Indonesia – probably from somebody who has lifted a few Coca plants from the vicinity of one of the old Belgian Coca plantations. Good work!
As far as I can tell nobody has been successful at removing or slowing the decay (anyone used nitrogen?) of the fruity shell or otherwise making Coca seed viable beyond 2-3 weeks, although a simple, slow air-drying process out of the direct sun seems to have worked very well for old-time growers. (This is described in detail on the Coca Handbook). So even a very modest-scale grower in, for example, the Western US, would have to have a very dependable source of at least several dozen viable seeds from the Andes to get started – no small task, to be sure. Any internet source would have to be carefully evaluated – there is a good chance that it might be either a con or a sting.
The other option for growers is cuttings, which work great according to all the historical accounts. Traditional Coca growers use this technique when they expect to plant only a few crops of Coca in a patch, because Coca plants grown from cuttings are sterile. (Again – all covered in the Coca Handbook.) Coca growers who plant from cuttings simply take a cutting with leaf bud activity and plant it in the shade by sticking it into a prepared soil bed. Nothing fancy – just good moist soil shaded from direct sun. And it’s easy to get growing plants from cuttings – Coca growers using this technique reportedly have a 75% or greater success rate.
Getting viable cuttings anywhere outside of Peru/Bolivia is also a major obstacle facing anyone thinking of growing a Coca garden because cuttings don’t travel well if they dry out, and ideally they go directly from being cut to the rooting medium anyway. Of course a country like Colombia could decide to get smart, but they are far too dependent on – you might even say addicted to – US “AID”.
The other side to this problem is that as just mentioned plants from cuttings are sterile (no seeds) so the grower will have to get fresh cuttings annually or keep cloning existing plants – which will lead to genetic exhaustion pretty quickly. That means, importantly, that leaf production will fall and ultimately the plants will die off.
So growing a few dozen Coca plants would be no small operation even if Coca plants were suddenly legal. Obtaining high quality seed or cuttings from their source in the Andes to get a planting started would still be a challenge, but one that I’ll bet will get solved PDQ the moment it becomes clear that Coca can be grown in the first US state to allow it.
So who is it going to be? My bet is on Washington, Oregon or Colorado. But there are some mighty fine Coca growing environments in New Mexico, California and Arizona too.
So, I’ve introduced you to the Coca Cultivators Handbook above. If you are interested in more than a growers guide, and if you want to explore every aspect of long-lost Coca traditions, cultivation, uses and rituals, then you might want to explore the only e-book that brings Coca history all together in one place.
The massive 750 page (if printed) ebook contains 5 complete full-text, digitized, hyperlinked books detailing every aspect of Coca use, preparation and cultivation.
Better still, I’ve converted their massive bibliographies into fully searchable hyperlinked resources, allowing you to explore all the collateral documents used by the original authors that are now hidden away in digital archives around the world.
You get all 5 long-lost books full of insights & practical experience, all in one fully searchable book of incredible Coca knowledge.
“History of Coca”, Dr. Golden Mortimer, 1901
“A New Form Of Nervous Disease: An Essay On Erythroxylon Coca”, Dr. William Searles, 1884
“Erythroxylon Coca: A Treatise On Brain Exhaustion”, Dr. William Tibbles, 1877
“Coca Erythroxylon: Its Uses In Treatment of Disease”, Angelo Mariani 1885
“Coca – Its Therapeutic Applications”, Angelo Mariani, 1890
Plus a groundbreaking English translation of the detailed inside story on Andean Coca
“Drug Wars & Coca Leaf In Brazil”, Ivan Barreto 2014
Click below to read the first chapter and then if you like what you see you can download it directly from Amazon to own and enjoy at your leisure.