@EsjeHerbIn this first part/episode of ASC’s newsletter column, I (@EsjeHerb) will share some knowledge and information regarding the harvest of cannabis. I will share some personal opinions with you, as well as tips and tricks. So hopefully you will end up with connoisseur’s-grade cannabis: The High Grade. For our second newsletter I am already planning to share some personal ‘post-harvest secrets’ as well as some tips regarding the curing of cannabis. I am sure you’ll be amazed by the things you can do with your trim, #TrimRosin, #CannabisCoconutOil, #HERBSstrips, #IceWax and much more, so keep reading!

Harvest Time

When your buds (flowers) are big, ripe and juicy, and the beautiful Fall colors start to appear, then you know it’s that time again, the HIGHlight of every year: Harvest Time!

Time to enjoy the fruits of your labor; actually, almost time because you are not there yet. There are a few steps/aspects during harvest time that you should bare in mind before your cannabis is ready to be consumed. I would like to stress the importance of these steps because they determine the final product. If these are performed correctly (with some love, care and patience) your harvest will be a success, but if you rush into this final stage then you will end up losing flavor, smell, effect and appeal. All your efforts during the growing and flowering stage will be to no avail, if you don’t put time and effort into your harvest and beyond. So what are these steps then? I will describe them from my personal point of view and expertise.

When Ripe? The Trichome-head

Determining when cannabis is ripe and ready to harvest is essential because the maximum potency is reached when the plant is fully ripe. The flavor, the odor (smell) and the effect are the results of the harvest timing. There is a significant difference in potency and quality between ripe and unripe buds. The moment of harvest is strain specific and also a matter of preference (like preferring to eat a ripe or a young banana); bare in mind that it isn’t an exact science, trial & error (read: R&D) is key to determining the perfect harvest moment. So what to pay attention to? When calyx hairs turn from white to red/brown? Or when fan leaves turn to fall colors? Nope! The only true indicator for maximum ripeness is the color of the trichome(head). But what is a trichome and what is the trichome-head? And how to spot these trichomes then? The only thing that you need to spot these is a magnifier or a microscope.

If you take a close look at the surface of cannabis (flowers and leaves) with your microscope you will see a layer of resin. This resin-layer is a manifestation of trichomes. A trichome (glandular trichome) is simply a stalk with a ball on top (see picture). Only in this ball, ‘the head of the trichome’, are the essential oils contained. This means that the cannabinoids and terpenes, which determine the potency of the cannabis, are only present in the trichome-heads. For those who don’t know what terpenes are; terpenes are organic compounds that make up the flavor profile and aroma of cannabis. This said, we can conclude that one of the most important aspects of harvesting cannabis is the trichome-head, because this is the only part containing (psycho-) active substances.

The content colour of these trichome-heads (resin glands) indicates if the development of cannabinoids and terpenes has reached maximum potency. A distinction can be made between 3 different resin gland colors. The color varies (depending on the ripeness) between ‘clear’, ‘milky’ and ‘amber’. Clear is associated with unripe cannabis, if the trichome-heads are see thru there are no (psycho-) active substances present. Milky or cloudy is associated with cannabis that is almost ripe. Trichome-heads filled with a white substance, what gives it the milky color, indicate that there are (psycho-) active substances present but not at maximum ripeness yet.

Manicuring

Some people choose to harvest at this stage already, like I said before it is a matter of preference when you want to harvest, because there are different stages of ripeness (color stages from milky to amber). These stages also affect the effect of cannabis when consumed. Amber is associated with maximum ripeness of cannabis. Trichome-heads that are filled with golden goodness indicate that the plant is ready for harvest. To achieve the maximum potency I recommend harvesting when at least 50% of the trichome-heads is milky and a big amount (20%-30%) is amber, so as little clear heads as possible.

The Actual Harvest

Now that you know how to determine when cannabis should be harvested, on the basis of the trichome-head theory, we can start with the actual harvest. Preparations are important; you have to prepare your plants for harvesting. You should refrain from watering for a few days before harvesting (when growing on soil), I prefer plants that have consumed most of the moisture, so the soil is dry and the humidity in the area is not higher than 60%. That’s why I would recommend to stop watering your plants 2-3 days before harvest. At this stage the choice must be made if you want to manicure your cannabis dry (dry-trim) or wet (wet-trim), because this decision will affect the whole harvesting process.

If you choose for a wet-trim it means that when you start harvesting, the plants will be trimmed down to the final buds and after this the drying process will start. If the choice is made for a dry-trim then the entire plant is pulled down during harvest and hung upside down before proceeding to the drying part. When the entire plant is dry, it will be trimmed down to the final buds.

Dry-Trim VS Wet-Trim

DRY

WET

Slower Drying Process

Faster Drying Process

Hard to Manicure (Longer Processing Time)

Easy to Manicure (Shorter Processing Time)

Glandular Trichomes easily fall off when dry

Glandular Trichomes don’t fall off

 

Wet or Dry Trim 

The Haircut: Manicuring Cannabis 

The way you will trim/manicure your cannabis is dependent on the choice you made before: dry-trim or wet-trim. From my experience I can say that a wet-trim is easier and also the processing time of a wet-trim will be shorter than a dry-trim. But the end result with a wet-trim is a decrease in taste and smell. A dry-trim on the other hand will insure optimal taste and smell because the drying takes more time, it is a slower process (it takes around 2 weeks to dry the whole plant) so the terpenes are less likely to evaporate. With a dry-trim you can clearly see that the sugar leaves (the leaves around the flowers covered in trichomes) will curl up around the flowers, protecting the actual flower. A naked bud as a result of a wet trim dries faster because there is less plant material (sugar leaf) present that has to dry.

Trimming wet buds is easier because the sugar leaves will stick out of the flowers instead of curl around them, so you can easily trim them off. Just as with the determination of the ripeness before harvest, trimming wet or dry is also a matter of preference. I personally prefer a dry-trim, it takes more time and effort but you will end up with cannabis that has better taste, better smell and in my opinion also a better effect.

You will need a scissor for manicuring, some people also manicure with their hands but this is only possible with a dry-trim. I recommend spring-loaded clippers because they reopen after they’ve been shut. Before you start the actual trimming I also recommend removing the fan leaves from the stem/branches. Then you should remove branches from the main stem, so you can handle each branch separately, it is the most efficient way to do it. After that you can start manicuring the (sugar)leaves on the buds that are still attached to the branches. Trim the sugar leaves down to the surface of the bud and finally pick the manicured buds off the branch.

 

Drying Marijuana

Drying the buds to get perfect flavor and smell is an art. There is a fine line between drying too fast (you will end up losing taste and smell) and getting mold problems (this can happen when the cannabis is drying too slow). In my experience this part of the harvest can ‘make or break your cannabis’. Humidity plays an important role in this as well as temperature and genetics. I recommend humidity around 50-55% and temperatures between 15-21 °C. If you choose to wet-trim your buds, the buds should be placed on a drying-net after the trim and will be ready for pots within approx. 9 days. If the choice was made to trim the buds dry, then the whole plant should be hung upside down for approx. 14 days to dry before trimming.

Drying should take place in the dark so that the photosynthesis stops. Keeping humidity under 50% decreases the probability of bud rot (mold), besides this it is also necessary to have air stream amongst the buds. If you don’t put enough time and effort onto the drying stage, even if you have grown the most beautiful cannabis, it will not meet the quality requirements (We Only Want Stinky Weed!). You will end up with cannabis buds that maybe look good but they won’t have an appealing smell or flavor. Put some time and effort on drying cannabis and you will be amazed. After drying you can even go further to reach the maximum potency, by curing your cannabis to perfection. Taste, smell and effect will get better after a proper cure, I can vow for that!

 

The Cure

Curing is the last but not least important part of harvesting. Curing cannabis can be described as the process during/after drying where all excess moisture is released from the cannabis buds. I will take you deeper into this topic in our second newsletter.