By Zachariah Finning
Curing is defined as any method successful in the preservation and preparations of food such as meats, fish, and vegetables. The concept of curing has been around since the beginning of antiquity. Before modern technologies we needed ways to store our foods for prolonged periods of time. This is intended to avoid spoiling and foodborne illnesses. We as humans came up with a few ways to protect our meats and foods from microbial growth including but not limited to: salting, smoking, spicing, and pre-cooking (S1). Curing is also a vital process in the safe cultivation of medical marijuana. A process often rushed or overlooked in the industry as growers and dispensaries can be quick to turn a profit or start the next harvest batch (S2). Here at High Mountain Health we believe in our curing process and the enormous part it plays in providing high quality medicinal flower.
The idea in curing cannabis is identical to that of curing foods – to prevent microbial growth that could lead to the ruination of the product during long term storage. However there is another essential reason to cure your cannabis. The process retains vital flavors, nutrients, and in this case cannabinoids. Properly followed curing steps can stop or slow the degradation process before volatile compounds like terpenes and cannabinoids evaporate or transform into less favorable compounds (S3). From the second the plant is harvested it begins to degrade as aerobic bacteria and enzymes begin to break down excess sugars and starches. Curing the cannabis naturally forces the plant to use up those sugars, starches, and excessive nutrients before they have time to dry out and get stuck inside the plant. Cannabis that is cured incorrectly could become moldy or host to other microbes (S3). If you have ever wondered why some cannabis is harsher or less flavorful than others you have consumed, this would be because vital components have not been properly preserved prior to distribution. A proper cannabis cure will not only improve the flavor and smoothness of a strain, it will improve the buds’ potency as well (S3).
Old wives’ tales and superstitions abound on how to properly cure cannabis. However, there are some methods that will surely do the trick. It begins by trimming the buds, removing the fan and water leaves from the physical buds and stems of the plant. Then one would want to begin by hanging trimmed buds and stalks upside down in a dark room. Usually this is done on clothing lines or hangers. Buds still attached to the stalk will easily hang at the node while smaller, popcorn buds may need a screen to lay on which encourages airflow (S3). The room in which you hang the cannabis should be dark and cool. Temperatures should be kept between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit with a humidity level of no more than 45 and 55 percent. This ensure preservation of the terpene content in the buds (S3). After at least one and a half to two weeks stems of the plant should gently break or snap when bent and the outside of the buds should be slightly crisp. This indicates that the curing process has begun successfully and you can begin the next step in the process: “sweating” the buds. This is done by removing the buds from the larger stalks and stems then placing them in sealable containers – preferably glass jars. Keep them in the same room that the plants were previously hung and return multiple times a day to open the containers. This process is called “burping” or “sweating” because it removes the excess moisture by drawing it out through the bud slowly while keeping the oxygen content in the jar fresh (S3). If the scent of mold or ammonia is noticed while burping the first few times the buds are likely not dry enough to cure. They should be removed and placed on screens for air-drying, a day or few at most, this will avoid mold ruining the batch (S3). This burping process becomes less and less frequent as time goes on, eventually slowing to once every few days to a week. Cured buds will usually be good to smoke after two to four weeks. However, a continued cure of up to eight weeks will improve the flavor and potency of the flower (S3).
Here at High Mountain Health we take pride and pleasure in providing some of the best medicinal cannabis that Arizona has to offer. Our award-winning Critical Mass CBD flower along with our high terpene value and THC percentage strains, such as Original Sour Diesel and Strawberry Banana, can hold up to that statement. Along with our diligent grow methods and handling practices, we know that our curing process is one of (if not the most) important parts in cultivating this high-grade medicinal cannabis. Without giving too much of our method away, our grow floor supervisor shared a bit of his knowledge regarding our curing phase. During our eight-week, glass jar, curing process we employ the method best described as “low and slow” (S4). This method has been characterized as creating optimal conditions for cannabis curing post-harvest. Curing for a longer time allows throat burning molecules such as chlorophyll and excess sugars to fully decompose and will bring out the true flavor of the essential oils, i.e. terpenes and cannabinoids, in the plant (S4). If this method is done correctly it will result in a flower that is slightly squeezable, with a strong resinous smell without any harsher or “fresh hay” smells. The flower will also gently break up in your fingertips without turning into a powder. Rushing the curing process by rapidly drying the cannabis with heat is never a good idea in our opinion. This will evaporate any essential oils in the plant which in turn will decrease the flavor and ultimately the potency of the plant (S4).
Whether concerning the preservation of foods or the final methods in the cultivation of medicinal cannabis, it can be agreed that curing is a necessary process. Vital in not only the retention of essential compounds, but also the degradation of unwanted molecules and prevention of harmful bacteria. In the medical industry the quality of cannabis can vary drastically due to a variety of factors ranging from genetics and grow methods, to air quality and temperatures. Most importantly though is the curing process and the essential transformations taking place in the flower during its progression. High Mountain Health takes a very professional and detail-oriented approach to producing our medicinal cannabis products – that being our flower or concentrate brand KAYA – which is made solely from HMH flower. There is no doubt that our curing process is one of the most effective in the state. We will continue to stick to the diligent process that has brought us this far and helped to “cure” the ails of so many members of the HMH patient family!
- Email correspondence with Timothy Simenson (High Mountain Health Grow Floor Supervisor)-+