Cannabis Industry

Harvesting, Curing and Storing: Part 3


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It has been several months since we placed those seeds in little pots full of soil. We watched them sprout and then flourish. We transplanted them into larger containers, gave them a nice warm, bright place to thrive. We cared for them and kept them healthy and pest free.

We’ve watched them mature, growing white hairs and watched them swell. There are many thousands of beauty shots of mature colas all over the internet that depict the moment before us.

All this work culminates now when you are finally, after what seemed like an eternity, ready to harvest your cannabis. When is the right time you ask? That answer changes depending on who you ask.

It seems there is little consensus as to the “proper” time to pick. Some say it when the pistils turn red or brown. And as a Layman’s rule of thumb, half the “hairs” on the plant, that way is a good indicator.

But to put a more exceptional point on it, a magnifying glass will help us. On the flowers and the leaves, protruding from the buds are little crystal looking things called “trichomes,” these are little THC factories when they are transparent.

Flowers harvested at this time have peak THC, and less CBN. CBN is one of the cannabinoids that results from THC breaking down. Its benefits include help with anxiety and insomnia, and generally more meditative effect.

If more CBN is desired, then wait for the trichomes to be more of an amber color. What now?

Hang the Harvest

When you have determined it is time for harvest, rig a clothesline (anything, twine paracord, picture wire, etc.) in your space long enough to hang each plant from.

This could be in tiers; there is a myriad of ways to do this, whatever serves your needs, go for it. The idea is to have air space all around the buds.

Next, cut each branch at the trunk, so there is as much stem as possible. Or, the whole plant at the base. This serves two functions:

One, it provides something to clip to the line, (clothes pins work, more twine, zip ties, twisty ties, on and on, whatever you have that would work). Two, it provides as much of the plant’s moisture as possible.

Cannabis Training University [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A note, many people trim all the fan leaves and little “Sweet Leaf’s” at this point. Nothing is necessary, purely up to you. If you do want to “manicure” your buds, or you want natural, there is no wrong answer here.

Others may disagree, and that’s fine. Your trial and error will tell you.

As the plant dries, it also trying to cling to life. To do that, it starts breaking down chlorophyll and other off- tasting compounds into sugars it uses to try to survive.

If the plant dries too quickly, there isn’t time for this process, and the final product will smell and taste like hay. Still with THC, but not the divine life it could have been. If the process takes too long, mold can form, making them taste and smell like a basement.

Bag the Harvest

After a day or so, you’ll notice wilting of leaves; they are starting to dry. Using old plastic bread bags or newspaper bags, or if your lucky have big ones, garbage bags and put each stem in its pocket and rehang.

The flowers will now call upon the moisture in the stem to rehydrate and start the breaking down process. Leave them in the bags for 12 or so hours.

Check them to see if they have wetted back up. If not, back into the bag. Then, a day in the bag, a day out of the bag. Repeating this process daily until the stem snaps easily at the flower’s base can take 12-18 days or more, bigger ones longer, smaller ones less.

Since there are way too many variables to enumerate, suffice it to say you want big buds that are dry, but not too dry, cured not fast, not too slow. Patience and vigilance are virtues in this regard.

Optional – Oil Infuse

So, you have all these fan leaves and sweet leaf from trimming your buds, what to do with it? There is an easy way to infuse coconut oil with the THC in these leaves.

In a pot big enough to submerge your leaves in a 1:1 solution of warm water and coconut oil. Simmer these leaves gently, no rolling boil, for 4 to 6 hours. Line a colander with cheesecloth and pour through into another container.

Compost what’s left in the filter. Put the container of infused liquid in the fridge until the coconut oil hardens, drain water. Now you have THC infused coconut oil for balms, cooking or what have you.

Lastly, a word on storing; depending on the size, you could have upwards of a pound of buds or more, how do you store it. Whatever you do, do not put it in the freezer.

Those essential oils that you worked so hard to produce are broken down and dried right out in the fridge. The best way to store your cannabis, in flower form, is in airtight, opaque containers.

Once you have achieved your ideal cure, you can keep some out for use, but it’s best to store the rest in zip locks in containers. A pantry, or perhaps some other place that is cool and dry, is ideal for long-term storage.

It’s also a good idea to check on your containers occasionally to make sure excess moisture isn’t an ongoing issue.

Congratulations! If you’ve made it this far, that means you’ve worked hard, and hopefully had some fun. Now, you get to sit back and enjoy the fruit of your labor.

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