It’s the terpenes that count. They are not exclusive to the cannabis plant, but they make have a big impact on the taste and aroma of the various cannabis species. Terpenes are organic compounds produced by many plants.
Their strong smells keep away herbivores and attract the predators and parasites that feed on herbivores. And, they are hydrocarbons chuck full of hydrogen and carbon, the core ingredients of fuel. Terpenes are common to sap and resin producing plants and trees. And, they contain the building blocks of steroids.
I’m no chemist, so let me save you the trouble. What we’re interested in is that terpenes and the terpenoids holding them produce the essential oils of medicinal plants and flowers. And, those oils have been used in infinite ways since people first found them.
It’s for growers.
Understanding terpenes and their value to the cannabis plant and product is especially important to those involved in the cannabis growing process, including those who grow at home. Terpenes can be damaged or destroyed during handling, growing, and processing. Any damage to the terpenes will diminish or destroy your outcomes.
You can learn to accelerate and maximize your cannabis yield and potency. But, if you lose the flavor and aroma along the way, you sacrifice its value.
What terpenes mean to you!
When you care for your farm, you want to encourage terpene growth and multiplication. The more you find on among your buds, the more potent the smell and richer the taste. There are scores of terpenes, sometimes subtly different. Each fruit and berry, for example, has its own smell, but it sometimes takes an expert to differentiate them.
They are fundamentally sweet, sour, spicy, and bitter. Specialists in wine, perfume, tobacco, and other fields develop excellent noses for distinguishing one scent and taste from another and detecting relationships between them. Their skills help people pair aromas and tastes with foods, moods, behaviors, and more. They understand we may be hardwired to prefer some over others and may be influenced by culture to favor others.
What you want to do is to encourage and facilitate the growth of terpenes and terpenoids in your crop’s buds. That may mean improving your own sense of smell and taste. If your nose or tongue is full of other compounds, you will not recognize what your plants’ strains are doing.
How to make it work.
Terpenes are largely defense mechanisms. So, you can spur their growth by stressing the plants—just a bit!
Too much stress will kill your plants so you might start making gentle movements with your hands around and among the plants during the middle to the late flowering season. Trying not to touch the buds themselves, you can gently mover the stems and leaves as if to expose them to more light and air. A more ambitious approach removes the leaves closest to the buds by hand. The real farmer pros have the experience and skills to be more aggressive, but you’re advised to take it slow rather than risk losing your investment.
As you get closer to harvest, you should lower the humidity in your grow room and leave them in complete darkness for a few days before harvest. The hotter and wetter the room, the lower the potency and flavor. You should reduce the nutrients you have been feeding the plants and provide only water for the last few weeks. They needed the nutrition to flower, but as you approach harvest, you should cut back and use the water to flush out the residue of the additives and chemicals. So, you want to nudge the plants into producing terpenes with a little stress without shocking them.
How to process your harvest.
You must dry and cure the harvest with care. The trick to doing that right depends on the humidity. It’s tricky trying to score just the right degree of dryness. If it’s too dry, it crumbles and falls apart. If it’s too moist, it invites mold, mildew, and poor taste.
Amateurs will just hang their plants to dry in the circulating air. But there are risks of contamination. You should dry in a humidity-controlled room. Most of the moisture will evaporate in three days at a 68° F and relative humidity at 55%. Dropping the temperature slowly will force decomposition and exhaust the starches. Keeping the humidity steady, your drying will take up to 14 days. The longer it dries beyond 10 days, the more the THC breaks down.
How to store your flavor and aroma:
- Store it out of direct sunlight in a cool, dry place below 75° F.
- Use tightly-sealed containers like Mason jars.
- Affix descriptive labels to jars with details on strains and expected THC: CBD ratios and flavor/aroma expectations.
- Store in humidors only if they have cedar interiors.
- Monitor the humidity levels with hygrometers or Boveda® packs.
- Vacuum seal your product in containers to avoid oxygen exposure.
Cannador® sells handsome, tabletop, wooden humidors to store your product in 2-6 strain versions. SneakGuard® has a jar with a lid that removes air and locks product in with a combination lock. Re: Stash offers sun-proof jars with childproof lids. Herb Guard markets a line of smell proof, black-glass containers and traveling bags. And, TightVac has long provided vacuum-sealed containers.
How not to store for flavor and aroma:
- Avoid plastic bags because they produce a damaging static.
- Don't store above, near, or around appliances producing heat.
- Never store in refrigerators or freezers because they fluctuate in temperature and humidity and will freeze the buds and terpenes only to be damaged in handling.
You must also remember that, despite the desired aroma and tastes, cannabis will give off a strong odor. You need containers and locations that won’t give you away or annoy your family and guests.
Your final tip
If you’re buying an eight at a time, this may all be too much trouble. But you lose value and investment when you lose taste and aroma. So, if you’re buying larger stashes or growing your own, you need to be careful. It’s also too much to expect to succeed the first time around. So, you should proceed with some self-education and patience to accept and learn from your mistakes.