The final stage of cannabis growing - from cutting and trimming your branches to drying and curing your buds - determines the quality of the pot you produce. These easy to follow harvesting instructions will help lock in flavor and potency for the best smoke you've ever grown. CUTTING Properly processing cannabis at harvest is a craft that must be mastered in order to enhance and preserve the psychoactive properties, taste and appearance of the finished product. Many talented growers neglect to implement some of the following techniques, resulting in buds that fail to reach their maximum potential. There are two basic methods used by growers to harvest their cannabis: cola harvesting (cutting the buds from the branches individually) and harvesting entire plant (cutting it off at the main stalk near the bottom). The majority of growers find individual cola harvesting to be superior, for several reasons. Some cannabis strains exhibit varying finishing times on the same plant. For example, the top colas may ripen while lower branches are still developing. Tops can be removed to expose the lower branches to light, thus allowing the lower buds to ripen further. Individual harvesting and drying of branches works faster than drying a whole cannabis plant. When a cannabis plant is harvested, the stomata on the surface of the leaves and calyxes will start closing off, allowing only small amounts of water vapor to escape. This forces the excess moisture stored within the stems/stalks to exit through the cuts you've made on them when harvesting. The fewer cuts for water vapor to exit through, the longer the drying time. TRIMMING For the highest-quality results, it's best to trim all excess leaves from the colas/buds upon harvest, while the foliage is still rigid and fully hydrated. It's very important to remove as many leaves protruding from the bud as possible. These leaves still contain chlorophyll, which will adversely affect the taste of your finished product. Trimming is a tedious job and requires a great deal of patience, self discipline and the proper supplies. It's important to have a good pair of scissors. It's also nice to have a bowl or basket nearby for the shade leaves and a separate container for the sugar leaves (I like to separate them because I later use the sugar leaves for hash and butter making). A table, comfortable chairs and good lighting are also important for the trimming process. Try to sit up straight, set goals and take breaks; trimming a full crop can mean several days' worth of work, even for the experienced trimmer. DRYING The drying process precedes the final harvesting stage of curing. Drying is simply the act of removing the excess water from the cannabis. Leave the buds on the stems and hang each individual branch on a string or hanger of some sort. It's best to dry the buds in a place that has indirect lighting and adequate air circulation. A fan is good to have in the room, but don't point it directly at the hanging buds. Allow the buds to dry until they're crisp on the outside and the stems are still pliable. Because the stems contains so much residual moisture, it's best at this time to remove the buds and place them in a large bowl or on a screen tray. Hanging and drying time will vary due to climate and humidity. When buds dry slowly, it makes for a smoother cure. If buds are dried too quickly, a harsher smoke could result. With slowly dried buds, the humidity remains closer to the humidity inside the stomata. If cannabis is dried to rapidly, the "green" taste will remain in the final product. Drying times are usually from five to ten days; it varies according to the temperature and type of heat in your home, as well as the ambient humidity, airflow and the density of your buds. CURING Cannabis continues to cure after it's harvested, while it's drying and even after it's put in a jar. Just like a fine wine or gourmet coffee beans, marijuana needs to be cured to achieve the rich, smooth, robust taste that lingers on your palate and in your brain. During the curing period, the cannabinoid, and the terpenes will isomerize to create new polyterpenes. Just as with any other fruit, when cannabis is harvested, the fruit or bud isn't dead; it continues to metabolize. Pick a tomato from your garden while it's still partially green and set it on a windowsill; it'll continue to ripen for days. The same is true of a fresh banana. As the banana ages, the peel will turn a darker yellow, and the fruit inside will become softer and have a sweeter flavor. The more robust flavors and tantalizing fragrances of cannabis begin to appear as the chlorophyll and other pigments break down. When the small stems that remain under the buds are dry enough to snap, and the buds themselves are dry enough to smoke, it's time to begin the final curing process. Make sure your cannabis is completely dry before putting it in a sealed jar or container. Sealing wet cannabis in a jar or container will result in mold, rendering the weed unsafe to smoke. Use glass canning jars (i.e., Mason, Ball or Kerr) to cure and store your finished product. Freezer bags can also be used for storing cannabis, but glass is always preferred. Don't store your cannabis in sandwich bags or anything made of a similar plastic; the buds will become too dry and lose potency. It's important to open the jars occasionally to let in oxygen needed for the curing process, as well as to allow gases built up from the curing process to escape. During the first three days of curing, I open the jars once a day. After that, open your jars twice a week for two weeks, then once more after the first month. At this point, the curing process is basically complete, but the buds will continue to mature and acquire more delicate flavors with time if stored properly. Store your jarred, cured cannabis in a cool, dark place to help slow the breakdown of the cannabinoids. Although cannabis needs oxygen through the metabolizing/curing stage, at this point oxygen will have an adverse effect on the already-cured cannabis, since it causes the breakdown of THC into CBN. The implementation of the simple steps listed above will make your dank a legend among your friends. Imagine their surprise when you break out some buds from a three-year-old harvest and they smoke and taste better than ever. There's no limit to the superb qualities of aged cannabis when it's properly dried, well cured and suitably stored. Source: http://hightimes.com/grow/mzjill/6318 After the Harvest by MzJill Fri, Mar 26, 2010 3:52 pm It's also been stated that this was in the November 2006 issue of High Times.