As my appreciation for fine cannabis grows, I have become more aware of the shortcomings of most of today's herb. Upon careful examination of these shortcomings, I've determined that the same four problems plague a surprisingly high percentage of today's kind bud. And it's not the genetics! Most of the strains that people grow nowadays would produce amazing medicine if grown, flushed, cured, and handled properly. This is especially sad when you consider that the hardest part is already finished by the time most people screw up their crop by not properly addressing these crucial steps. After many years of paying very close attention, I have concluded that when I sample or judge any herb, the importance of these four factors means that I'm actually judging the grower more than the strain itself. Since most growers aren't addressing these four crucial steps properly, their finished product is generally inferior to what's ultimately possible.
Herb must be organically grown. In order for ganja to express its full, dazzling array of flavors and all the subtle subtones that come along with it, it simply must be grown organically. I know that many hydro growers would disagree with me until the end of time, but it's true. Being the author of the Cannabibles, I have been fortunate enough to sample many different growers' attempts at the same strain, even from clones, and with the exception of the Chem strain, the organic always tastes better. [For the full story of the Chem, see “Cannabible 2, page 46.] This is not to say that properly grown hydro can't taste delicious. Sometimes it can be very delicious indeed. But that same strain grown organically will have a more diverse and satisfying flavor, and certainly a better aftertaste.
I can understand why hydro growers were resistant to switch then or twenty years ago --- organic methods were too heavy, stinky, and messy. Luckily, this isn't the case today. Many brands of organic fertilizers and liquefied nutrients are potent and easy to use, manageable, not too messy or smelly, and affordable as well. Any good grow store should have a selection of such products. But the big reason most chemical hydro growers continue to use chemicals is because they think their bottom line --- yield --- would suffer by going organic. This is simply not the case. If expertly grown, organic methods will yield just as much as chemical ones, if not more. I've conducted experiments that have proven this time and time again. And even if the yield were a little less, considering that the quality is greatly enhanced, it would still be worth it. Better herb is worth more money, if that's what you're looking for.
The bottom line is this: Plants, like humans, do not want to be fed [or treated with] chemicals. A human can live [for a while] on fast food, cigarettes, and beer, but they won't thrive. It's the same with plants. Thought chemically fed hydroponic plants might look healthy on the outside for a while, they aren't thriving on the inside. All the chemicals only serve to weaken the defenses of the plant, just like they do in a human. Nature's way of dealing with these weakened plants? She sends bugs, viruses, molds, and other pathogens to eliminate the weak specimens. [Survival of the fittest, remember?] Again, this is the same way it works with humans. The answer, contrary to what the chemical peddlers will tell you, is not to spray on more chemicals! You need only take a brief glimpse at what chemical agriculture has done to modern farming and farmers to understand this. Millions of acres of rich, fertile farmland have been reduced to barren, toxic, dead wasteland as a result of repeated douses with what our government calls “safe” chemicals and fertilizers. Why repeat this destructive cycle in your grow?
Consider this --- one of the main techniques I use to judge herb is to roll a joint [with a Club rolling paper] and pay particular attention to the second half of the joint. This is where the true test comes in. Any decent herb can taste good on the first few hits of a joint, but it's truly special herb that tastes great right down to the last hit, with the roach burning your fingers. Most of the herb I come across tastes like hot tarry smoke by the second half of a joint, a major drawback in my book. Probably grown [and flushed!] organic herb almost always tastes great right down to the end of a joint. Chemically grown herb almost always tastes like “schwill” by the second half of a joint. Try this experiment yourself; I think you'll see what I mean. The second half of a bowl or bong load clearly reveals the benefits of organics. With chemically fed hydro, you end up with a black cruddy bail of harsh carcinogens, while properly grown organics taste delicious down to the last hit, and the residue blows away as a clean, gray ash.
Herb must be flushed properly. This is another big one that most growers don't seem to get. In order for ganja to reach its ultimate potential quality, the plants must be cut off from food and thoroughly flushed with clean water for several weeks or more before harvest. Of course, this step is much more important when harsh chemical fertilizers are used than with orgaic methods. But it's necessary with any setup if you're to achieve ultimate quality. The amount of flush time varies depending on the situation, but I generally recommend stopping all feeding and switching to pure water approximately one month before harvest. This timing can be shortened for indoor plants or lengthened for outdoor plants, depending on container size, the fertilizers used, the strains grown, and a number of other factors. This gives the plant time to finish all its remaining food, at which point the leaves will start changing colors and the plant yelloing, which is part of its natural life cycle.
Yes, you might be able to crank out another few grams or so by feeding your plants up to the end or close to it, but isn't the aim for ultimate quality, not quantity? Cannabis plants that are allowed to yellow on their path to senescence have a much more beautiful and complex flavor when smoked or vaporized than plants that are bright green right up to harvest. Again, I have done experiments that have proven this again and again. Skipping this step is one of the main factors that just about ruins most Canadian and Dutch commercial herb. [I know I will get flak for that one, but I also know that there are many connoisseurs who completely agree with me on this point!]
Herb must be cured properly. Curing is such an important step in producitn fine herb but sadly is so often ignored or neglected. I believe this is because often the demand for ganja is so great that people will buy herb that hasn't been dried properly, let alone cured! Also, I think many growers are ignorant of not only the importance of this step but how to do it, as well. I am constantly amazed at how often I see herb that is genetically excellent, grown very well, harvested properly, dried properly, then sold or consumed without being cured and therefore only half as tasty as it could have been.
The curing process is quite simple: After the herb has dried to the point that a stem will snap if bent, the medicine is transferred to glass jars [preferably]. [Airtight plastic containers or other clean and sealable containers can be used if the quantity is too large to jar.] Over the next couple of weeks, several times per day if possible, the jars are opened briefly. This allows the gases trapped inside the jar to escape, essentially “sweating” the nugs to golden perfection. This process also allows the last moisture hiding deep inside the buds to find its way out. During the curing process, the ganja's smell will change from a slightly vegetative stink to a near orgasmic and lusciously diverse aroma [depending on the strain of course!]. Not only is the flavor greatly enhanced by curing, the high also improves. The medicine will smoke better as well, burning more evenly. But most importantly, a multitude of delicious flavors that otherwise would have gone unnoticed and unappreciated will reveal themselves. One last point: Herb that has been cured properly doesn't even need to be squeezed, and therefore degraded, to smell its best. Just opening a jar of properly cured cannabis will make your mouth water!
Herb must be handled delicately. Don't even get me started on this one! Cannabis flowers are incredibly fragile and delicate. I cannot stress this point enough. This is the single biggest reason most pot sucks. By the time it reaches the smoker's lungs, most herb has been manhandled to the point where it is probably half as potent and tasty as it would have been if handled properly. This degradation usually starts when the plants are still alive, as people will squeeze the buds to get a smell, bump into them, drag them along the ground, and otherwise subject them to a variety of insults. During and after harvest they are manhandled even more as they are broken down, transported, hung, trimmed, moved around, dropped and so on. Every time they're touched they degrade. It's that simple.
In order to produce what I call connoisseur-grade herb, incredible care must be taken at every single step of the process to ensure that the flowers are touched, disturbed, or molested as little as possible. This means all the way to the bong, joint, or vaporizer, where most people will roll up a little ball of herb and stick it in the bowl, getting their fingers nice and sticky in the process. That lovely smelling sticky feeling on your fingers --- that's the best part of the hit, which will now be wasted. Take it from me; I spend a lot of time looking at fine cannabis under a microscope at high magnification, so I have become hyperaware of just how delicate the flowers are, noticing how each time they're even just barely touched so many resin glands are knocked off or exploded.
And what is the first thing most people do when packing a bong load? They stick their finger on it and smash it down into the bowl, even if it didn't need it, thereby removing pretty much all the resin from the top. This is my pet peeve! Personally, I use scissors [always the same pair] to cut off the piece I'm going to smoke and use the metal blade to push the herb into the bowl, not letting my fingers or hands get sticky at all. Yes, you lose a little on the scissors, but at least it stays there and builds up for easy collection, which isn't the case if you use your fingers. And rolling a joint? This pretty much decimates the herb if you break it up with your [very sticky] fingers. I highly recommend the use of an herb grinder [available everywhere] for breaking up the herb. Yes, it does knock off resin, but again, it builds up inside the grinder and can be collected. As another side note, let me mention that the grower of some of the best herb in this book never touches, let alone squeezes, his flowers, and before he let me into his garden, I was told not to either! I was happy to oblige.
None of these four crucial steps adds any cost, yet they are so often skipped or neglected. It does not have to be this way. Believe it or not, most of the compressed schwaggy herb grown in Mexico, Jamaica, Africa, and many other commercial herb centers of the world would have been absolutely fantastic if you or I had harvested the plants and cared for them from that point on. Please grow or demand cannabis that is organic, flushed, cured, and handled like the delicate flower it is, and we will watch the quality of marijuana shoot way up to the highest heights on a worldwide basis! And lastly, please love your plants, as this has been proven to have a wonderful effect on plants and their growers! One Love.