Mendocino Taught Me How to Grow, Humboldt Taught Me How to Process
There is tremendous reflexivity and knowledge exchange between the cannabis cultivation counties of the Emerald Triangle. Developed under prohibition, our decentralized system of farmsteads has traditionally relied upon word-of-mouth and person-to-person exchanges to spread knowledge about growing practices. I was born and raised in Northern Mendo, but I have worked all over the area and it has been incredible to see so many different styles of cultivation.
My first summer out of college, I worked out west of the highway in Southern Humboldt. I was familiar with the traditional screen-dry approach that people in Mendo had been using for as long as I could remember. The gentle derision from the Humboldt folks was confusing to me: “You’re from Mendo? Hay Budder.” Always stated with a certain pity. “You’ll soon see what the hang dry is all about,” they’d tell me.
Sure enough, that fall I learned about proper curing and processing of cannabis. Like all herbs (think tobacco or other herbs), cannabis curing has a specific set of processes that yield the most effective results. Tobacco is traditionally harvested and hung in large barns to air dry. Cannabis prefers this methodology as well.
Perfecting the Humboldt Hang Dry
Plants don’t die immediately upon harvest. It takes several days, and during this initial curing process, the flower is still capable of producing chlorophyll. Proper curing removes chlorophyll, also removing the “green” flavor that often contains a harshness. Cannabis that is cured with too much light exposure generally contains more chlorophyll and so is less good for smoking. Sometimes known as “harvest hack” or “fresh cough”, the results of smoking cannabis that is dried but not fully cured are well-known to our culture.
On our farm, we’ve developed a methodology in accordance with our Clean Green Certification that allows us to slow-cure our cannabis on the stem in a controlled setting. Hanging the branches and allowing the plant to draw all of its remaining life energy from the leaves and stems into the flower yields incredible results.
How We Dry Our Cannabis Crop Step-by-Step
- We harvest in waves, 4-8 inches of flower at a time until we get to the insides and it’s hammer time, usually the fourth or fifth cutting.
- We hang the flowers from wire hooks (think Christmas ornaments) that we make from baling wire.
- We run racks made with vertical 2×4’s and wires in between with 5-8 strings/row, 4-6 rows high/rack with aisles just wide enough for the large totes we use for harvesting to slide between the racks.
- Cannabis cures on the line for 5-12 days, depending on density and quantity of cannabis in the drying room.
- We don’t remove any leaf when we harvest; the water leaves curl around the flower as they dry, providing a protective layer throughout the rest of the curing process. They also slow down the drying process, yielding a slower cure and a more enjoyable final product.
- We line-cure until the flowers are dry on the outside but still have a bit of moisture left in the stems.
- You look for “slow-stem-snap”, especially with the water leaves; you want the stem to bend, bend, bend, break. No break, not dry enough to be put away.
- Then is when the ubiquitous cannabis-scene paper bags come in handy. Paper breathes and absorbs moisture out of the flowers; after line-curing we continue to bag-cure until the appropriate moisture levels for long-term storage have been achieved.
- We check the paper bags every day, turning the flowers if needed to make sure that moisture isn’t being trapped in the center of the bag.
- When we reach desired slow-stem-snap, we gently put the flowers into clean goose-size turkey bags. These we also check daily, opening to burp out any excess moisture.
- When cannabis in plastic is of desired moisture it is fully prepared for long-term storage. At this point, the flowers are dry on the branch and could be trimmed; in the past we would have done so. Now, we take the bags of dried cannabis and store them underground in clean, food-grade pickle/pepperoncini barrels. The earth maintains a constant temperature; the cool darkness finishes the curing process over the next months, yielding cannabis that we consider to be of connoisseur quality.
That’s how we process cannabis on our farm. What’s your preferred method?