FAMILY :: CELASTRACEAE
A large quantity of new crop Catha edulis seeds
will be available for sale in June, 2012.
Please email if interested.
QAT, JÂT, CHAT, KHAT, ARABIAN TEA: Of all the plants listed for sale in this catalog, this is probably the most controversial (in legal terms). Although it is listed in a previous edition of The Sunset Garden Book as an ornamental, there are people in power in this world who think that the effects of chewing Khat are — how do I say this diplomatically — undesirable.
According to a grant sponsored by the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control, the main subjective effects of Khat use are “euphoria, improved intellectual efficiency and alertness.” The active principles are norpseudoephedrine and cathinone. It is non addictive, but excessive use can produce some symptoms of amphetamine psychosis. A synthetic diet drug related to cathinone is phenylpropanolamine.
The “War on Khat” has already been entered by the US, most noticeably by the invasion of Somalia a few years ago, partially in an effort to gain control of the Khat trade. How the citizens of any country tolerate the illegalization of any plant I find mind-boggling. I can understand a society needing to have individual actions (murder, violence, theft, abuse, etc.) be illegal, but I can’t understand the prohibition of the cultivation and personal use of any plant, be it Khat, tobacco, opium, coca, pot, etc. Well, I mean I do understand the economic benefits of such prohibitions: A select few people become extremely wealthy off of illegal sales. But I don’t understand the acquiescence of the populace. It appears that drug laws are enacted to create criminals, not to remedy social problems.
To further digress: I once lived in what is termed “the emerald triangle,” three counties in Northern California that grow a large quantity of marijuana. In the summer it’s a war zone. The military and police are constantly overhead in helicopters, the Highway Patrol routinely stop anyone in profile, and police wander the hills trespassing and searching without warrant wherever they want. Civil rights are non-existent, all because some people are growing a plant which produces fewer deleterious effects than beer. Everyone knows of this abuse of power, but, I’m afraid, we also acquiesce. Oh,well.
Back to Khat. While the Muslim religion (predominant in the geographical area where Khat is used) bans alcohol and other drugs “harmful” to the body, it doesn’t ban Khat. The illegalization efforts that have been made in the past in this area have all been by the occupying colonial powers (the English and Italians).
To the Muslims, Khat is known as “the flower of paradise.” It grows easily to a large shrub or small tree in sub-tropical locations. Mature specimens I have observed have survived temperatures down to about 25º f. It is widely adaptable to different conditions and soils but seems to grow best in rich, moist, well-drained sandy soil in full sun (coastal) or light shade (inland). In its natural habitat, Yemen and Ethiopia, it grows to tree size on hill sides at about 6000′ elevation where it has a relatively stable temperature of 80º f. It is very easy to grow in Puerto Vallarta and the rest of the tropical world.
Normally the leaves are not harvested until the plant is 4-5 years old, after the plant matures and flowers. It is customary to drink coffee or sodas while chewing the young, tender leaves and stems. Sometimes bubble gun is chewed simultaneously (especially by Yemeni college students). The taste of Khat is somewhat astringent, especially if older, lower quality leaves are used. The effects (lasting from 2-3 hours) range from a mild increase in energy to a full-blown speed-like high, depending, of course on the quality and amount consumed.
HOW TO CHEW KHAT:
Khat is rarely grown from seed in its native habitat because, as with most commercially grown drug plants, much effort has been made to develop higher quality strains. That being said, seeds are often the only method of propagation available to people living in restrictive areas.
Khat is relatively easy to grow in sub-tropical or tropical regions of the world. It is easy to grow in greenhouse conditions in temperate regions as long as the low temperature to which is is exposed remains above freezing. It is happiest at 80-90 degrees (f) or 28-32 degrees (C) but will survive and often even thrive at lower temperatures.
Germination is simple. Plant the seeds near the surface of any well-drained soil and keep them moist. In 1-2 weeks, they should begin growth. During the first year, they grow slowly, reaching only a foot or so in height. After the first year, they grow rapidly to large bush or small tree size and are ready for harvesting in 3-4 years. Pruning tips helps increase leaf and stem production. After the first year, these plants are heavy feeders and require frequent fertilization to maintain their rapid growth. Never let their soil dry completely.
Catha edulis will grow well in full sun or part shade. It’s ideal is 80 degrees (f) at about the 6000′ elevation in the tropics. This translates well to part shade, 80 degrees (f) at lower elevations.
Generally, the more red on the stems and veins of the leaves, the stronger the Khat is considered to be.