My first grow looks like it’s going to be a bumper crop and I can’t use it all right away. How do I prep/store the buds? If this makes a difference, I mostly plan to make tinctures/topicals (only a little may be smoked). Also, can I store the leaves?
Thank you for a great question. Regardless of what you plan to do with the stored crop, you want to preserve all the characteristics the buds had before they went into storage. This means the preservation of the cannabinoids and terpenes that make marijuana what it is. Preserving the compounds means ensuring the right climate and conditions in your storage area so your potency will not be degraded by temperature, light, or humidity.
If you are ready for storage, that must mean that you have already cut, dried, trimmed, and cured your nugs in such a manner that they are at the peak of perfection. Maintaining that perfection is easy if you know what you are doing. If you cured your buds in glass mason jars (the only way to go), then they don’t need to be repackaged in another container. The jars provide a nice protective shell for your crop while they wait for you. Pretty much anything else will let air creep in. Air can cause your cannabis to dry out, thus breaking down all the delicate compounds within them.
Store the jars out of the way in a place that shields the buds from unwanted light (UV light speeds up the decaying process). A nice dark closet is probably your best bet. As for the storage temperature and humidity, cannabis has a general comfort zone both in the garden and in the jar. They should never vary too much, so keep temperatures cool and the humidity the same as in your growroom. A nice, cool 70–75˚F is right where you want your temperature. Some say go higher, but why bother? Temps above the mid-80s will cause you problems and may spark some mildew growth if there are any leftover spores kicking around. As far as humidity goes: 55–65 percent, just like in the garden.
As far as your leaves go, they most certainly contain cannabinoids and terpenes and can be used for just about anything. The problem is that the levels of the compounds is very low, and it takes lots and lots of leaves to create a sizeable extract. The problem with storing leaves is that the density of the plant matter stacked together can cause heat and lead to mold and a nasty sludge from the decomposing leaves. If you do want to store your leaves for weeks or months, your best bet is to freeze them. You will want to use paper bags, however, to allow some breathing while frozen. Any excess moisture absorbed by the leaves (which will be minimal) is shed in the extraction process.
On that note, never throw your fresh top-shelf nugs in a freezer. Like the leaves, your buds will absorb condensation. However, this can lead to mold.
So, when you pack your crop away for the long haul, just remember to consider the four major conditions: temperature, humidity, light, and air. Keep your buds dark, cool, moist, and airtight and you will find they will last as long as you need them to. If you decide to keep your leaves, definitely throw ‘em in the freezer. Follow these easy steps and you will make the best tincture around, be it tomorrow or next year.
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