With the harvest officially over it is time to turn our attention to turning our freshly cut buds into a consumable product. At this point we have a raw product that can be converted to flowers, hash, tincture, oil, or any other cannabis product you can imagine. No matter what your end goal is for your harvest, the next step after trimming is to dry and cure your cannabis.
Drying vs. Curing
Drying cannabis is fairly self explanatory; you dry cannabis to remove moisture in order to prevent mold from spreading when storing and to create a product that is combustable for smoking. Drying your cannabis is an essential step even if you have no plans on smoking your flowers; do not skip the drying process and do not try to store wet cannabis in a sealed container.
Curing cannabis is much more complicated than drying and is practically an art form itself. “Curing” is essentially “slow, controlled drying” and is done to break down the chlorophyll in cannabis flowers and leaves in order to remove the “grassy” flavor while preserving the terpenes and to provide a superior throat-feel when smoking or vaporizing. Buds that are not cured properly are still smokable but are best used for processing into hash, tincture, or oil. Growers who focus on producing buds for smoking will typically cure their buds under close observation for at least 2 weeks before moving on to the drying stage; growers who do not have the time to check on their cannabis daily are better off drying their cannabis first.
Drying on the Rack
Because I don’t live on the site of the garden and only visit on weekends I cannot commit to the daily checkups needed for a proper cure so I dry my cannabis before curing. Immediately after the buds are properly trimmed they are placed on the drying rack in a storage shed that gets plenty of ventilation. Direct light will damage trichomes and lower the potency of your cannabis; make sure your drying room is dark and never dry your cannabis in a green-house!
Cannabis flowers take about 2 weeks to dry in typical Bay Area weather in October; the more dense you pack your flowers, the longer it will take to dry. I like to pack my buds fairly dense so the plants don’t dry too quickly, creating a harsh smoke that tastes like freshly cut grass, but this does cause the risk of mold spreading so it’s important to remove any suspicious buds. The easiest way to tell if a bud is properly dried is to try breaking a branch or stem; if it snaps than it’s dry, if it bends than it’s still too moist for storage.
Curing in Brown Paper Grocery Bags
Proper curing requires either storing buds in a room with controlled humidity or storing them in sealed containers and allowing them to breathe a little bit every day. The challenge of a proper cure is balancing the “slow drying” against the possible spread of mold; without daily observation your prime buds can turn into a rotten mess overnight!
Because we are not on site everyday, want to make things as simple as possible, and are focusing on processing rather than flower for smoking we curing our buds after the drying process and doing it in a way that does not require daily observation. The secret? Brown paper grocery bags!
After the buds have dried they are placed in brown paper grocery bags and placed in the same dark shed that they were dried in. Leave them in the bags for a week, take a bud off and smoke it, if it still tastes like grass and isn’t too harsh then leave them in for another week! This method typically takes two weeks to cure; once they are cured they are either placed in glass mason jars to store for smoking or are placed directly into oven bags to be decarbed for processing.
The First Taste
With my first two cuts of the harvest season already dried and cured, it’s time to sample our flowers! These flowers were harvested early as a precaution due to the oncoming bud rot and will ultimately be used for processing but will provide a sneak peak for what my mature buds will bring in a few weeks.
The Blackberry Fire really does taste like it’s fruity namesake and I wish I had the time to give it a proper cure; with it’s high yields, calming indica-high, and excellent flavor I will definitely try to grow this strain again. The Gorilla Glue still tastes a little grassy but burns very smoothly and provides an excellent daytime high one would expect from a sativa; I am very happy with the results. The Sherbet continues to disappoint as it came out very harsh and tasting like a freshly mowed lawn; it was a fun experiment but I doubt this strain will find a place in my garden in the future.
The Next Few Weeks
With the harvest out of the way and our buds drying and curing it is time to figure out what to do with all of our cannabis! Most of our buds are already in oven bags ready to be decarbed and converted into either tincture or oil with the remaining “late harvest” buds being saved for flowers for smoking. Now is the time to research recipes and make sure we have enough grain alcohol, coconut oil, and containers to create the products we want.