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Harvesting and drying Marijuana
Harvesting is the reaping of the bounty, and is the most enjoyable time you will spend with your garden.
Plants are harvested when the flowers are ripe. Generally, ripeness is defined as when the white pistils start to turn brown, orange, etc. and start to withdraw back into the false seed pod. The seed pods swell with resins usually reserved for seed production, and we have ripe sinse buds with red and golden hairs.
It is interesting that the time of harvest controls the "high" of the buds. If harvested "early" with only a few of the pistils turned color, the buds will have a more pure THC content and will have less THC that has turned to CBD and CBN. The lessor psychoactive substances will create the bouquet of the pot, and control the amount of stoneyness and stupidness associated with the high. A pure THC content is very cerebral, while high THC, high CBD, CBN content will make the plants more of a stupid, or hazy buzz. Buds taken later, when fully ripened will normally have these higher CBN, CBD levels and may not be what you prefer once you try different samples picked at different times. Don not listen to the experts, decide yourself based on what you come to like yourself.
Keep in mind, a bud weighs more when fully ripe. It is what most growers like to sell, but take some buds early for yourself, every week until you harvest, and decide how you like it for yourself. Grow the rest to full maturity if you plan to sell it.
Most new growers want to pick early, because they are impatient. That is OK! Just take buds from the middle of the plant or the top. Allow the rest to keep maturing. Often, the tops of the plants will be ripe first. Harvest them and let the rest of the plant continue to ripen. You will notice the lower buds getting bigger and fuzzier as they come into full maturity. With more light available to the bottom portion of the plant now, the plant yields more this way over time, than taking a single harvest.
Use a magnifier and try to see the capitated stalked trichomes (little THC crystals on the buds). If they are mostly clear, not brown, the peak of floral bouquet is near. Once they are mostly all turning brownish in color, the THC levels are dropping and the flower is past optimum potency, declining with light and wind exposure rapidly.
Don not harvest too late! It is easy to be too careful and harvest late enough potency has declined. Watch the plants and learn to spot peak floral potency.
Do not cure pot in the sun, it reduces potency. Slow cure hanging buds upside down in a ventilated space. That is all that is needed to have great sensi. Drying in a paper bag works too, and may be much more convenient. Bud tastes great when slow dried over the course of a week or two.
If your in a hurry, it is OK to dry a small amount in-between paper sheets or a paper bag in a microwave oven. Go slow and check it, don not burn it. Use the defrost power setting for a slower, better drying. It will be harsh smoking this way though.
A food dehydrator or food preserver will dry your pot in a few hours, but it will not taste the same as slow-dried. Very close though. And this will speed your harvest time (which can be nerve-wracking, with all this pot hanging around drying.)
Dry buds until the stems are brittle enough to snap, then cure them in a sealed tupperware container , burping air and turning the buds daily for two weeks.
Once experienced grower told me to dry in an uninsulated area of the house (like the garage) so that the temperature will rise and fall each night, as the plant is drying. If you treat the plant as if it were still alive, it will use some of it is chlorophyll while it is drying, and the smoke will be less harsh.