Harvest Highs

Many hours of work puts one pile in the bag.

      Determining peak ripeness is essential to harvesting. Once you cut your plants down there's still work to be done before they become that primo victory smoke youíve been waiting three months for. Donít blow it at the last minute. Read on to learn the dos and doníts of harvesting.

The HIGH TIMES guide
to the connoisseur cure
By Soma

      Curing and storing your sacred medicine is as important as getting your crop growing correctly. Its amazing the number of people out there growing cannabis who donít know how to cure their weed. If done correctly, your harvest can last a year or more and still taste superb.

Live NYC Diesel

Cured NYC Diesel

      Having been around cannabis growers for many years now, I have seen some bad mistakes made in this department. The most common problem with harvesting and drying marijuana is that people pick it too early. They become impatient, have bills to pay, get paranoid, or run out of smoke. They go to their growroom, look at their plants. and justify picking them early. That is the first no-no in growing: Donít harvest early. My motto is ďWhen it looks like itís ready, wait a week.Ē

The Purple, heavily resinated

      Cannabis is ruined if itís picked too early. Learn to observe your plants very closely, noticing exactly when the calyxes are so swollen with crystals that the plant will not get any riper. Donít just wait until the white pistils turn red. Itís not the red hairs that get you high; itís the trichomes on the calyxes. A 30x microscope with a light will help you to see if the trichomes are almost halfway amber. Thatís when I like to harvest, though some people pick before they turn color at all.

Trichomes just starting to turn amber

      Sometimes you have to harvest early for reasons beyond your control. I was growing a beautiful crop here in Amsterdam when I found out my landlord was selling the property. I had to move out and pick it two-and-a-half weeks early. Waiting until the last possible moment, I then organized a team of good friends to help. With three days left before I had to be completely out of the space, I cut the plants down and hung them in the growroom with a charcoal filter.

Buds must line-dry before hands can go to work.

      I let them dry for two days, then put them in sealing bags to stop the smell and quickly brought them to my new space. There I took them out of the bags (sealing bags and a sealing machine are essential tools of the trade), hung them up in a cool, dry space, and let them dry for another 10 days. My friends and I completely dismantled the growroom, making it look like it never existed. I and the crop were history. This particular crop wasnít up to snuffóbut I figure life is what happens in between plans, anyway.
      When you are down to your last two weeks of flowering, you should begin to think of where you are going to dry your smelly harvest. Many a garden has been lost due to the stinky smell wafting out in the wrong direction. I suggest a charcoal exhaust filter in the space where the cannabis will dryóbetter to be safe than, sorry. Depending on the quantity you are working with, you will want to hang several strong lines going from one wall to the opposite wall in the room with the filter. A good-quality circulating fan is needed to move the air around the room, to gently help the moisture evaporate off the plants. What you want is for the moisture to evaporate at a slow rate; you do not want the plants to dry quickly.
      I use a sharp gardenerís pruning shears to cut the plant. I then take all the large fan leaves off, using my thumbnail (and the thumbnails of my friends). I take no more off the plants. The sacred medicine is then hung upside down from the strong crooks on the plant. When the herb is hung in this way, the buds form into a nice teardrop shape. The temperature in the room is about 65įó75įF, so it stays dry, but not too dry. I give the room seven days and check a bud to see if the stem snaps. If I think itís getting close, I start manicuring. If itís not dry enough, I wait.

Love for the plant keeps you going.

      The next item you need is a large table with a clean, shiny surface. With it, you need a few pairs of sharp scissors and some good lighting. I then take a T-55 silk screen thatís slightly smaller than the table and attach it with duct tape. The tape stops it from moving. The purpose of the silk screen is to catch the large resin glands that are heavy and fall off first. If the quantity is large enough, I have a friend sit on each side of the table, at his or her own station, so to speak.

This work must be done right.

      With scissors in hand, we start clipping the small branches off the main trunk of the plant and lay them on the screen. Pleasant music and some fine smoke are essential here, because you need to have a good buzz to sit there for a few hours. My manicuring team and I then start to take all of the extra leaves off the buds. We use our fingers to take the leaves off and use the scissors to cut the stems. After a while, sticky, smelly resin starts to stick to our fingers. and every couple of plants we have to rub it off into a bowl. This hash is priceless: no one ever sells it. The only way to get it is to grow it.
      When the buds are cleaned of all leaf, they are placed on screens and allowed to dry a little bit more. All the leaf trim is saved to make water hash. After the cleaned buds have sat out on the screen for a few hours, they are ready to be placed in Mason jars. I leave them closed overnight and then open them again for an hour. This process helps the moisture trapped inside the stem to rehydrate the drier leaves on the outside of the bud, giving a homogeneous dry to the plants. I keep opening the jars and checking them for about a week. It is imperative that your stems snap before you put your herb away for any length of time. If they don't snap and you put it away, your stash will go sour. ruining the perfume of the sacred herb. Marijuana changes with time. If you smoke it as soon as it is dried, you can really taste the chlorophyll. In a month, it tastes better, and in a year. it gets a golden color and a deep. rich smell.

Live Rockbud

Cured Rockbud

      If you treat your harvest in this way, you can have your own connoisseurís stash to smoke all year long. I for one donít like to smoke buds that arenít at least 3 months old, as time has a gentle way of making the chlorophyll taste fade away. Once you have it just right, it can be placed in a freezer for very long-term storage and will be good literally years from now.

Trichome Talk

Interview by Chris Simunek

      Trichome Technologies is a research partnership started hack in Ď94 by experienced cannabis cultivators K and Sharky. They have invested significant amounts of time, energy, and money in laboratory-grade facilities, where they dedicate themselves to the research, development, and stabilization of medicinal and commercial-grade cannabis. K has been studying our favorite molecule for some time now. We decided to ask him a few questions regarding the magnifying-glass method for determining the peak ripeness of cannabis plants.

HT: How many days after flowering do you usually harvest?

K:    We usually harvest after about 60 days. Sativa-indica hybrids will take up to 75 days. I work with strains that are pretty close to each other and peak right at the same time. Basically I look for the fullness of the trichome. I make sure the head of the trichome hasnít changed color.

You use a loupe?

      Itís hard getting a grow specimen between the lenses of a microscope, so yes, we use a 20x loupe, or a 1OOx if we have one.

What do you look for?

      A capitate-stalked glandular trichome looks like a mushroom under a microscope or loupe. There are other trichomes, but thatís the one that holds most of your THC. Iím looking for a fully developed mushroom head that is clear, just starting to turn opaque - certainly not turning amber, which is a sign that your THC is turning into cannabinol (CBN).

Trichomes magnified at 150x

      We harvest when 60% of the trichomes are ripe and 40% are just starting to get ripe. Once everything is properly dried, cured, and stored, those trichomes that werenít fully ripened should pretty much be at their peak.

So you donít judge by the color of the pistils?

      No, not really. There is a general rule that as long as 60% of your pistils have started to dry up, turn brown, purple, or whatever, theyíre ready. Using a loupe is just more exact, because the plant will still produce more pistils throughout its life. Counting the brown hairs on your plant is a small indicator, but itís far from your total indicator. With a loupe, you can watch the total development of the trichome, from its incarnation to its finish.

What happens if you leave them too long?

      If we didnít pick at that point, we would go past peak, the mushroom head would explode, and at the end of the process, we would have too high a percentage of overripe glands. The THC would have converted itself into other cannabinoids, such as CBN and cannabidiol (CBD). Trichomes basically just shrink and evaporate. All your terpinoids evaporate, and your drug evaporates also. Sometimes they just fall off. So you donít want to go past peak, and you donít want to go early.

Are there any high-tech methods of determining ripeness?

      In a laboratory situation, you could pick a small specimen from each strain and run it through a gas chromatograph, and determine exact THC levels from day to day until the THC peaks. I've heard you can rent a machine for $1,500 a month. The problem is that you must provide a standard, a sample that has already been lab-tested and proven to contain a guaranteed percentage of THC. You can only obtain these specimens from the University of Mississippi and/on EISohIy Laboratories Inc. Unfortunately, these standards are heavily controlled by the DEA.