Harvest time comes at the end of any growing process and translates as “happy hour” for every grower. This is the moment when we must face the crucial decision to cut off or to leave buds to grow some more. It is of the utmost importance to cut buds off at the right time if we wish to succeed. But how can growers determine the exact point at which they should harvest and cure cannabis? Here there are some keys to obtain a final product with the desired flavour, aroma, and concentration for each strain. We know that poorly cured buds cause smokers to cough and an uncomfortable feeling in the throat, apart from losing its aroma, and both THC and CBD concentration.
Optimal Conditions for Harvesting Cannabis
First, we must determine the state of maturity of buds. Trichomes and their appearance are usually the best indicator. Their colour and look will tell us when it’s time to cut off. The best conditions possible for harvest day are a temperature around 15°C and between 30% to 50% humidity—the drier, the better. If you are in doubt as to whether day or night is the best time to harvest, we must warn you that these plants work during the day, carrying water and nutrients where needed, so the best time to cut buds off is during the night, when the plant is hydrated and the soil is moist.
Should I Just Pick Buds or Cut Down the Whole Plant?
We can choose between cutting down the whole plant or big chunks of it; some growers prefer to cut off branch by branch or just buds. All of this depends on each grower’s available drying area and the size of the plant.
Trimming is the step prior to cutting off, and it means to remove stems and leaves from buds. It is convenient to trim plants while they are still in the pot before cutting them down. This prevents leaves from weakening because of dehydration and also enables trimmers to work more comfortably. Moreover, if all leaves are left, these will add moisture to buds—restraining buds from drying as they should and attracting fungus and mites (natural enemies of buds).
Then we move onto the drying room. Drying cannabis in a timely and appropriate manner is key to draw out moisture from buds and thus avoid mould formation. A specific space must be cleared out so that plants can be hung there to dry or, alternatively, a strainer can be used to that end. For optimal results, cannabis should be dried slowly. It may seem easier to just place it in the oven, but this will only reduce cannabis quality and flavour. Terpenes are chemical compounds that add flavour to cannabis; they are volatile and degrade when exposed to high temperatures. Temperature in a drying room should be around 21°C and relative humidity should be 50%.
The drying process usually takes from 2 to 7 days. Watching buds closely every single day and touching them is essential to determine how moist they are. Drying is on point when branches break in an attempt to bend them. Now we are ready to move onto the last step.
Curing is an ancient method—as ancient as humanity itself. Food has been cured and stored for years, and this may have been the most decisive step for the establishment of civilised societies, given that this technique allowed people to save food for periods of drought and famine. Although each kind of food calls for a different curing process, they all share the same goal: to preserve a product with all its flavours, aromas, nutrients, and—in the case of cannabis—its cannabinoids.
From the moment we cut down a plant, cannabis starts degrading as enzymes and aerobic bacteria break down sugar and starch excess that results from chlorophyll degradation. The presence of these residuary sugars and minerals causes a burning feeling in the throat when smoking weed.
At the end of this process, buds must be stored in glass jars. A dark, aired space is ideal to keep cannabis until we are able to turn it into any of its byproducts. Still, we must not fail to note that some byproducts are made from cannabis that has been dried and cured to a greater or a lesser extent than the one used for other byproducts. This will vary depending on the extraction method used.