So, you know how to smoke hemp flower…but do you know how that flower gets ready for smoking? The growth process of cannabis and hemp plants is no simple feat. In fact, the method of curing hemp flower can significantly affect its quality and potency.
To become an informed hemp flower connoisseur, you should understand the madness of the method that goes into the final product. With our own fall harvest on the books for later this month…there’s no better time for an insider’s look at the process.
Keep reading to find out how your flower goes from plant, to person, and the secrets behind harvesting hemp.
A Background on Bud
Before we get into the final phases of curing cannabis plants, let’s brush up on a little bud background. That way you can best understand how the end product comes to be. First and foremost, hemp plants start their life cycle as a seedling, or a clone from a mother plant. That’s just a fancy way of saying, a ‘cutting’ from a plant. The ‘mother plant’ is kept in its vegetative state typically, because it’s proven to be high quality genetics.
From there, the seedlings or clones enter their own veg phase. Where they’re given TLC, the proper nutrients, and optimal environmental conditions it takes to grow big and strong. During the veg phase, the goal is to nurture the plant’s overall strength. This helps the plant eventually pack on the weight of an abundance of bud sites. And, become strong enough to support hefty hemp buds any grower strives for in the end. This phase alone can take anywhere from 30-60 days.
From Veg to Flower…
The plants then enter the ‘flowering’ or ‘bloom’ phase, next. Which all depends on specific light cycles. Either set by the grower for indoor grow room operations, or by mother nature herself for outdoor grows. Hemp and cannabis plants are ‘photoperiod’ by nature. Meaning they require cycles of light to begin blooming, typically, 12 hours on, and 12 hours off. During this time, plants are watered, and fed with a set NPK (Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorus) ratio that best supplements growth, and the photosynthesis process.
After anywhere from 7-10 weeks…the plant is ready for harvest. Which takes a keen eye, considering the coloring of the pistils, and trichomes, provide a natural ‘cue’ to their maturation and readiness. The pistils or the small white hairs you see on flowering hemp transform from white to an amber/orange as they mature. While the trichomes or crystals notorious for hemp bud’s sticky-icky nature, transform from milky to clear.
Why does this matter? Because hemp and cannabis plants grow the most in the last 2-4 weeks of their life cycle. If harvested too soon, you could lose out on potency. If harvesting too late, cannabinoids and terpenes can begin degrading, too. Only adding to the elusive nature of timing harvests just right for optimal quality.
Harvesting Hemp & Curing Smokable Flower
The next part of a hemp’s life cycle is where the magic happens. AKA, the final steps it takes to transform high quality plants into top-shelf buds for smoking. During the last few weeks, plants are often ‘flushed’ with just water so the nutrients from its feed are ‘flushed’ from the flower. This helps the end product be as pure, as pure can be, for the smoothest smoke possible.
But once the plants are ready to harvest, they’ll be chock-full of that moisture from flushing or feeding. Hence, the importance of the drying and curing phase. Drying and curing properly ensures that the natural levels of terpenes and cannabinoids are maintained, which enhances the flavor and potency of the final product. While, also ridding of the plant’s natural levels of chlorophyll which can add an undesirable taste and unpleasant inhales.
The final phases of harvesting also help to separate top-shelf flower from low-grade flower. As it takes just the right optimal conditions, and processes to produce flavorful, bag-appeal worthy buds. Here’s a glimpse at the final 3 steps in the harvesting hemp process that’ll make the ultimate difference in quality –
The Final Phases of Harvesting Hemp –
- Drying – Plants are cut down whole, or branch by branch and hung to dry in an environment that has the ideal humidity + temperature levels to do so. Why hang to dry versus laying out flat? By hanging, the buds keep their natural form and shape rather than them getting misshapen or becoming flat. Drying out to the appropriate level , normally takes anywhere from 3-7 days.
- Curing – The curing process is similar to that of food – it ensures the flower remains at peak freshness, without the loss of cannabinoids and terpenes (AKA maintaining potency), and without the growth of mold. Meaning a proper cure helps preserve the flower for quality, and longevity. It’s also the process where mason jars became synonymous with the cannabis industry. That’s because airtight glass jars or containers are pivotal to the hemp curing process. Curing ensures the smokable flower maintains the proper level of moisture while also receiving a fresh flow of oxygen from ‘burping’ the jars. By opening or ‘burping’ the jars daily, moisture escapes while restoring levels of oxygen too. The art of curing can take anywhere from 2-4 weeks, while some cultivators cure 4-8 weeks or even 6 months with certain strains. If you come across hemp flower that smells moldy or mildewy – it’s a surefire sign that the drying or curing process has gone awry.
- Trimming – The way in which hemp flowers are trimmed, can vary from grower to grower. Before drying, growers often ‘wet trim’ the buds. Which removes any unnecessary sugar leaves and allows the buds to dry faster. Some choose to wet trim all the way, only cleaning up what they’ve missed after drying or curing. While others choose to only dry trim before curing the buds. Both have their own advantages, and disadvantages. But regardless – trimming is the final art form in producing the shape of buds. The goal is to maintain a shape natural to the strain without losing original integrity. In addition, to remaining aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
A Step Above The Rest
Now that you have a better idea of the work that goes into each batch of smokable hemp flower, it’s likely you have an enhanced appreciation for Longleaf’s labor of love. Not every hemp cultivator or CBD producer handles every step with the level of TLC it takes to produce top-shelf, high-quality hemp goods. But, we’re proud to cultivate small-batch, hand-crafted harvests that stand a step above the rest.