Greetings, Melissa, and thanks for writing in with such a timely question. Indeed, harvest season is now upon us and I am sure many growers are looking for tips to aid them in what is one of the most crucial – yet overlooked – aspects of cannabis cultivation!
To start, it is important for growers to realize the true importance of a good dry and cure. It is this stage of preparation that really unleashes the full bouquet of the buds – both the aroma and flavor – as the terpenes and essential oils of the flower come to the forefront as moisture is released.
Of course, there are many methods and techniques deployed by growers that offer excellent results in this regard. But the key here is to get the moisture out slowly, so as not to evaporate those oils and terpenes that comprise our favorite strains. In differentiating drying versus curing, the cure is basically just a much slower drying process.
In terms of time frames, this can vary depending on whether your garden was indoor or outdoor and the conditions the flowers were grown in. Was it a particularly wet grow season outdoors? Did you have high humidity or ventilation issues in your indoor growroom? If so, you buds may be wetter than in previous seasons. It is up to you, the grower, to determine just how moist your flowers are before you begin your drying and curing process.
As a general rule, many experienced growers will dry trim their plants. This means that they first hang their branches to dry – leaves and all – before beginning their trim process. (The opposite – trimming off fan leaves and small branches and buds before hang drying – is referred to as “wet trimming”.) Allowing the branches to dry out with all leaves attached aids in slowing the rate of evaporation, keeping plants from drying out too fast and losing those valuable aromas and flavors. The only caveat to watch out for here is botrytis, or mold. Growers need to carefully watch the humidity levels in the drying room and carefully inspect all branches and flowers for browning botrytis spots before hang drying.
Once a grower feels good about the condition of the flowers and their drying space, they usually hang branches upside down at the nodes (“V” location of stem and branch), either on long stretches of thick twine or on metal hangers. (Be sure to attach a label to each branch or hanger denoting the date it was cut and hung as well as the strain name!) Drying times can range from 7 to 14 days, with the average being around 10 days.
Once the branches have dried out and all leaves are hanging straight down, the trimming begins. First, all big fan leaves are removed and the buds lobbed off the branches. Then the finer manicuring starts, with the smaller “sugar” leaves that stick out of buds being removed (and usually saved for hash or concentrate production). It is only after all leaf material and stems are removed and only finely manicured buds are left that the curing process can start.
Curing is a slow process that lasts as long as the grower desires. The average range is about one to two weeks again, however some connoisseurs deploy much lengthier cures with some lasting as long as a few months. The shelf life of cannabis, no matter how well stored, starts to really diminish after about three months.
Most growers will cure for two weeks if they can, but this process requires a bit of diligence that makes curing buds harder than one might think. The key is to slowly “sweat” the buds in well-sealed containers. Glass is more ideal than plastic as certain plastics sometimes impart an odor or odd taste to the bud, but either will work. Once inside the container, the jars should be opened daily for five to 10 minutes to purge evaporating moisture. Twice a day for five minutes, for two weeks is ideal.
As time goes on, however, air becomes more and more of an enemy in this process. Once completely dried and cured, if you intend to store your buds long-term, a vacuum sealer is recommended to prevent further oxidation of the resin glands. Still, most cannabis connoisseurs prefer to smoke well-dried buds that have been slow-cured for optimal taste and potency. From start to finish, the time from harvest to smoke is usually about a month and the wait is sure worth it!
Thanks for reading everyone and remember: Grow… And help the world grow, too!
^ terpenes (www.hightimes.com)
^ dry trim their plants (www.hightimes.com)
^ @Nico_Escondido (twitter.com)
^ @Nico_Escondido_HT (instagram.com)
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