The 2016 harvest is in. The season now begins its high energy wrap-up as stalks come down, fan leaves get snipped and tossed, the remainder of the plant gets hung and the trimming and drying processes kick into high gear.
I remember those days fondly, from that almost comical first run of a dozen-and-a-half little plants under shop lights next to the furnace – a quarter to a half ounce each. The progress led to a little slice of heaven, a tropical field in my basement; by the end of our run, we were cycling about 30 at a time (out of 90 or 100 in bloom, with replacements always ready to move from veg to their final home under the high pressure sodiums) to finish on a manageable cycle. (When I say “manageable,” I mean just barely so – usually starting on a Thursday night, taking Friday off, and finishing sometime mid-weekend to prepare a pound and a half to two pounds, depending on the strain.)
It was absolute sensory overload: The greens running the spectrum from chartreuse to one of those bottles you might drink skunky beer from, the smell overpowering enough to make the girl at the grocery checkout where we’d go to grab snacks and drinks think she was smelling not weed but an actual skunk, the motorized hum of the fans and air scrubbers filling our ears along with the Dead or some Tribe Called Quest, the sharp bite of the popcorn buds I’d chew for giggles, the constant tacky grab of the residue, like Velcro between our fingers, and the smoke from the live resin scraped off gooey scissors by razor blades and puffed in my bong. As time went on, I developed a continually refined process, aided by my mentor, Rooster, who looked at me one day and said, “Curing ... It’s all about the cure.”
The drying process for us involved hanging the trimmed buds from strings across a darkened area with a couple fans aimed toward the ground and one of the small HEPA filters running for about four days. As the stalks got to the point where they maintained a bit of flexibility when bent (this is important because if you rush to dry your buds, they can become too brittle and will flake apart like old oregano); from there, I would cut them into smaller portions and place them into paper bags for another three or so days (I found sandwich-sized bags packed to medium density worked best); after this stage, when the stalks reached a point of holding a bit of moisture but snapping when bent, the buds would be removed from the stems and placed into glass jars to begin their long period of rest to final preparedness.
This is where things get crucial. There is a risk during the first few days of molding so the jars must be opened – or “burped” – a couple-three times a day to allow moisture to escape. I’d go the extra step for the first few days of having one extra jar and moving each portion from one jar to the next, making sure they were not growing any unwanted nastiness. After about a week of this, the buds are ready to go, but that’s where “connoisseur status,” like the aging of a fine wine, begins. Rooster advised me to cure at 90 days, minimum, and he was onto something. At that juncture, much of the chlorophyll leaches from the buds and you’re left with golden-hued, smooth smoking nuggets that accentuate the best elements of the fruit of your labor. Try this long cure with at least a portion of your harvest (or some that you were given or bought) and let me know around late winter if it was worth the wait. I’m confident it will be.
Christopher Gallagher lives with his wife and their four dogs and two horses. Life is pretty darn good. Contact him at [email protected]