What is Croptober, you ask? “Croptober” is the nickname many farmers give the month of October, signifying harvest and the end of a grueling season battling the elements while cultivating hemp flower. For hemp enthusiasts, Croptober also signifies the arrival of new and fresh smokable hemp flowers.
Hemp is an annual plant. This means that hemp plants germinate, flower, set seed and die all in one season. The ultimate goal of an annual plant is to reproduce through seed production. Since seeds are an undesirable element in smokable cannabis flower, cultivators will cull male plants and/or employ specialized breeding techniques to produce “sinsemilla”, or seedless flowers.
Hemp plants typically reach maturity in early fall. As the procession of the equinox progresses through the year, the sun’s photoperiod (the duration of light in a day) decreases, which signals to the hemp plant that the season is coming to an end. This triggers the process of senescence in the plant, causing the plant to produce fruit as a means of seed production, so that the plant can procreate before it dies.
When the plant has reached full maturity and the fruits, or flowers, have reached their full potential, it’s time to harvest. Months of hard work, sacrifice and planning culminate in the joyous occasion that is harvest. Below, we will explore the rudimentary elements of hemp flower harvesting; experienced farmers often employ sophisticated techniques above and beyond the basic elements detailed below:
*The Determination: Are They Ripe?
One of the most well-known basic criteria for determining if the fruit is ready for harvest is pistil coloration. Pistils are the small “hairs” visible on hemp flowers. When the pistils change from a pure white to a russet or pink-ish color, this can indicate that the plant has stopped cannabinoid synthesis, ensuring the flowers are at peak production.
Another common criterion for determining if the fruit is ready for harvest is trichome coloration. “Trichomes” are the sticky, resinous glands on hemp flowers. They often referred to as “crystals” or “sugar” on the hemp flower. These lovely little glands are where the plant sends the desirable elements of the fruit, namely, the cannabinoids and the terpenes. When the plant has reached peak cannabinoid production, the previously transparent or clear colored trichomes will begin to change first to a translucent opaque, and then progress to an amber or dark amber color. This color change indicates cannabinoid production is complete. This color change is a defense mechanism of the plant- the amber color protects the cannabinoids and terpenes in the trichomes from breaking down in the sun’s intense ultra-violet light. Basically, the amber coloration is like a pair of sunglasses for the delicate trichomes and their delectable cannabinoids and terpenes.
Hemp cultivators employ many different methods of cutting the plant. Often, cultivators will choose to employ a graduated harvest technique where the top-most flowers are harvested first, while secondary and tertiary layers of fruit are left on the plant to further ripen. Other times, cultivators will elect to cut the whole plant. The act of cutting the plant is a bittersweet moment for the farmer- on one hand the cut indicates a successful grow season. On the other, it marks the end of stewardship of a plant that the cultivator has painstakingly tended to for several months.
Farmers that elect to harvest and cut the whole plant will sometimes hang the intact whole plant to dry. Connoisseurs often recognize this as the best method for producing boutique flower. However, time and space are often a consideration for the farmer, and some farmers may break the plant down into smaller, more manageable sections before hanging. This usually will expedite the drying process.
Other farmers may elect to “buck”- or remove the flower buds from the stems, stalks and vegetative leaves- at this stage of the process, and then utilize drying racks to dry the bucked fruit. Either way, this part of the harvest is serious work and often done with the upmost urgency. Still others elect to use industrial drying machines or employ forced-air heating systems as a means of expedited drying. While these methods offer a quick turnaround, it is all too often at the expense of quality. Drying hemp flower can take anywhere from 10- 30 days, depending on the methods employed and the weather.
“Trimming” hemp flowers removes extraneous stems and vegetative material from the fruit, improving aesthetics and smokability. Trimming can be performed either “wet” or “dry”, with both methods having its merits and demerits. Ultimately, it is up to the cultivator to determine which method is best suited for their crop. In recent years, advancements in mechanical trimming machines have allowed cultivators to trim large harvests of hemp flower at a previously unimaginable rate, which allows the famer to deliver a less expensive product to market.
However, even the most advanced machines cannot perform the most intricate trimming actions. “Crow’s feet” are the undesirable leaves that form on the bottom of a hemp flower, while it is still on the living plant. After harvest, these crow’s feet often remain as two unsightly and unsmokable stems on the hemp flower, almost comprehensively observed to be a blemish by connessuiers. The removal of crow’s feet and other finer aspects of the trimming process must often be executed by skilled human hands, even when expensive trimming machines have been utilized.
“Curing” is the act of preserving the smokable hemp flowers. How a harvest is cut, dried and cured can make or break the desirability of the finished product. Smaller gardens have the luxury of employing more desirable methods of curing, such as jar curing.
Conessuiers often acknowledge jar curing as the method that produces the most desirable smokable flower. To jar cure flower, the flowers are place in sealable containers, usually glass, and stored in a cool and dark place. The jars are then “burped” occasionally to release excess residual moisture, which can cause undesirable oxidation in the fruit as well as render the flower undesirable to smoke.
Burping is done by simply opening the curing vessel seal long enough for moisture to escape. For larger gardens, jar curing is extremely impractical. Often times, large plastic totes are employed as a way to manage large yields of flower produced by large gardens.
For macro-sized productions, entire rooms or buildings will be outfitted to allow plants that have been hung to dry to continue to cure in place. Curing should be done in an environment with minimal outside light exposure and consistent temperature and relative humidity. Most cultivators agree that the ideal environment to cure hemp flower is 55-65 degrees Fahrenheit and 45-55% relative humidity.
*The Finished Flower
Hemp flower that has been cut, dried and cured with care will give the smoker the best impressions of the fruit. The improved flavor, effect and aesthetics of well harvested hemp will lend the flower an increased desirability to the smoker. Well harvested flower will also retain its desirability for a longer duration after it’s been harvested, giving smokers something to rejoice over for many months after the harvest.
Croptober is upon us! Stay tuned for new releases of 2021 Southern Oregon Hemp Flower, the best hemp flower in the world!
JAXON is a premium hemp and CBD product brand located in Southern Oregon, the hemp capital of the world! JAXON sells hemp and CBD products both on our website and wholesale to bulk buyers, distributors, dispensaries, and stores. To contact JAXON about wholesale pricing, please call us at (541) 414-2373.