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Clean Leaves – A Commercial Challenge

One of the things that has surprised me – how hard it can be to get clean leaves and use them in a state licensed business.

And what I mean is …….  for the ideal cannagar, you want leaves that have not come in contact with pesticides or other sprays, especially the common types used to prevent mites, stop rot, kill bugs, etc.  Not all growers who want to make cannagars can provide such leaves.   It’s difficult to predict how a chemical presence in a leaf will effect organic decomposition during curing.   I have seen some odd decomposition that seemed to be directly attributable to pesticide use.   And who wants to inhale pesticides?   No one.  The problem – the foliage takes the brunt of all sprays.

I was helping someone who turned out to be using Eagle 20 (and NO ONE should use that stuff), their leaves started to look like Predator skin from the Schwarzenegger movie – mottled, spotted, yellow/green/brown/black.   Looked fine for a week after plucking, then nose dived, unexpectedly.  They had several large batches completely fail and go bad, and after switching to something new, the problem stopped.    And they kept switching.   New problems happened.

I prefer taking leaves during flower – both because the leaves are typically lighter, and because growers will often stop spraying once the buds begin to form.  However, flower is when the leaves usually start to become less abundant, and when many growers will start pulling foliage off.

I’ve had several clients whose rooms for selecting leaves would change schedules often, switch brands without notice, foliar nutrient overload where the nutrients burn leaves, mega-lolipopping (trimming everything off), etc.    All surprises during the middle of cannagar production.   Expect the unexpected with a large operation.

Smaller niche growers with attention to detail and a solid plan, you can really take the cannagar market.    Not only will you have the edge and the story, like a craft brew, but the overall attention to your product and ability to control it is going to win.   Believe me.   Even if you arent pulling in money now, keep going.   If you love what you are doing, keep perfecting your art.

The big growers can afford to do what it takes, so its oxymoronic in a way.   With all the resources, the amount of people interfacing can make the entire process burdened and harder to manage.

Boutique craft growers whose main focus in top shelf will to be the gardens that can really put everything together on site and knock out a quality cannagar – and the key will be marketing it right.

If you have a business that wants to make cannagars, and you have no access to clean leaves – it was a real pain for the few producer processors I have worked with to transfer leaves from other grows.  Paperwork, driving, the leaves had to be transported in the same secure van as the rest of the deliveries, which was a cost added to the leaves, and time, etc etc etc.    If you are going 100% by the laws.   It really doesn’t seem like it needs to be that difficult.  Maybe it’s just a Washington thing.

I wanted to get hemp leaves last year for a client that was having trouble getting clean leaves.  Hemp seemed like a perfect idea, abundant and I could get possibly get insane amounts of leaves, but …’s not allowed.   Cannabis producer processors cannot accept or sell any hemp product, and vice versa, and the most strict will want to account for where the leaves came from.  Ok.   So just tell people that the leaves came from <X> hemp farm.    They cant.  It’s against the regulations. . It was amusing.  I get it, hemp and cannabis – for flower + extract – they have to totally be separate markets.    Leaves too apparently.   lol.

Growing leaves at home is easy to grow without pesticides – the challenge is that anything you grow at home cannot be used in a retail product.   So, my leaves remain for my personals, and my own event service rolling, but I cant bring them to any consulting client for use with anything destined for a retail shelf.

People get weird about those rules man.

How hard is it to get leaves onto retail cannagars where you live?

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Leaf Browning Experiments

The leaves I used for this were cured for about 5 months or so – picked back in July, and placed in books to flatten and dry them.

I got the idea to alternate between dry and about 70% humidity, 5 days dry, two days wet, and ive done this for about the last 2 months. I think if I extend that a little bit, ill have reached the tobacco brown cannabis leaf I want to try.

Why do I want this? This breaks down the chlorophyll without using solvents or waiting for the flower / flush period. There are other ways too, but everyone is kind of developing their process in a bubble somewhat, secretive about each process. With this one, any shade of leaf can be browned, and the results are something like : yellow / light green leaves will become tan. Darker green leaves become brown. Purple leaves become dark brown, like a “Maduro” in premium cigar world.

Fun to see this developing in the industry, everyone approaching these processes from new angles. I’ve only smoked one of these puppies so far, so its going to take a bit more testing to see if I am onto the formula I will use for my own brand. I need to get them thoroughly brown, and not as splotchy.

But, that one was a winner. No bitter encroachment of chlorophyll as I smoked it down during an entire day by myself. And really not much noticeable intrusion to the flavor of the flower concentrate either.

Burning the leaf by itself had a sweet musky aroma, almost incense like. Definitely much less the burning leaf smell of a chlorophyll saturated leaf.

Onward, Upward, Cannatorcedores!

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New Leaf Process – Expanded

The core backbone method is the most solid workable and easy to reproduce thing there is.    I didn’t invent this, I cannot take credit, it was suggested to me, and it is now the way I do things.   It can be improved, and experimented with, without a doubt.

The main take away is this : instead of wrapping fresh leaves on a flower core and trying to cure them on the gar, I pre-cure the leaves and then wrap with already cured leaves.   Much less frustration and difficulty.    Let’s examine, shall we?

Harvesting leaves can happen at any stage of growth, experiment, play around and see what you like.   I prefer fresher lighter green leaves taken in flowering stages, right when flush begins but before degradation happens.   Thats just me.

What you need :

1) Books (I use unbleached journals – 11 x 17)
2) Fresh Leaves

I started with the theory that pages containing text and ink would not be desirable.   I don’t want anything from ink transferring into something I am going to smoke.   Next, I went with the idea that unbleached and less refined paper pulp would be preferable to stark white pages.   No idea if this is accurate or not, just going with RAW’s philosophy, and so I sought unbleached hemp paper journals.   Seemed logical.   I’ve been happy so far.

If you put one leaf into a book and come back later – the book is enough to absorb the moisture and dissipate it without damage to the book more often than not.    But, if you cram a book completely full of leaves – you may get page swelling, distortion of the paper, and ultimately something you cant re-use.

This is to be expected.  Once all the juices are gone and the leaves are in a preserved dry state –  you can transfer the leaves into a new clean book, and keep them there as long as you want.

Before processing the leaves – I clean them.    I have other posts about washes, and the ways you can play with this are also too many for this blog post.   Over all – the wash is the same as a fruit wash when you bring produce home from the store – cleans away residue, dirt, particles, bugs, bacteria, etc.   I am not longer trying to remove chlorophyll with my wash.   It is simply, a wash.

Once clean, the leaves are laid on a table and strewn across a cloth, allowed to air dry in an environment that maintains at least 50-60% humidity.   If you do this in an area where humidity is too low, the edges may crinkle and you may get damage if you don’t time it just right.    You can also blot the leaves dry to speed things up a bit and maintain more control if humidity control at a room scale isn’t possible.

I use two book process now after a bit of development.   First book – to be mostly destroyed by the juices in the fresh leaves, and to be discarded after the first week or so.   The second book, to keep the leaves in permanently until ready to use.

Once you have your leaves in your book, apply pressure.   Stack heavy things on top of it.   Ensure there is airflow where you keep the book.   If there is not airflow, “burp it” every now and then so that mold does not develop.

Then, once the leaves are completely dry, transfer them to the permanent storage books where they can stay for 6 months or more, with no limit to how long you can keep them.   Keep them in a humidity controlled area if you want better preservation.   This isn’t totally required, but the long term results will be better.   Less wrinkle age/shrinkage.

When you are ready to use the leaves. you will need to re-hydrate them.   Bovedas can do this, but take a long time to do it.   Placing leaves on a cloth, suspended above water in a bin seems to work the fastest.   Experimentation with flavor augmentation can be very fun at this stage.   You can use fruit rinds like orange peel to re-hydrate leaves, or fruit juice itself.   Takes longer, but as you can probably guess, they will have rehydrated themselves with the fruit essence permeating.   I find that, these essences don’t always stick, so its up to you to test and determine what is worth your time.     Terpene ambience, fruit rinds, etc.    I do not recommend applying these liquids directly to the leaves – it is better in an enclosed in a place where the evaporating essence re-hydrates the leaves.   Direct application of liquids will tend to ruin the leaves.   And, if you are using terpenes, some terpenes are actually solvents.

I encounter so many people still extracting chlorophyll by elaborate laborious processes, and expressing frustration at the complications involved in curing that way – this eliminates most of those problems, and most of that labor.

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New Leaf Process – Continued

So……. my most recent batch, it’s time to revisit using large leaves.   I normally opt for smaller leaves, even though that is more labor intensive, simply because larger leaves have been harsher and they have bigger veins.   I was fortune to be invited to a farm to select their beautifully pristine pesticide-free leaves.   I didn’t expect cannabis trees.   Some leaves are so big that my hemp journals will not work – some of these fan blades are 12 inches+

Snagged a few art portfolios on the way home.     24 x 36.   Biggies.   Unfortunately, I could not find any unrefined paper and that is something I am looking for online.

I dissembled a book shelf I am not using, and sandwiching the folios between the concrete floor in my garage, and the wooden shelf, with my 200lb hydraulic shop press on top of it.   That should do it.   (folios have been exposed for the photo, definitely need total coverage or the edges wont flatten as nicely)

When using leave blades this large, it was difficult to get the leaf to flatten with creasing.   I was placing leaves top side up, for no real reason.   Discovery that should have been obvious : if you put them in the journal bottom side up, the shape will naturally flatten better.

For commercial processes, there are things that will work better.   Looking into T Shirt Presses, and larger hydraulic presses that can actually evenly squish a very large area.     This isn’t a rosin squish.   They remain under pressure for 1-2 weeks, then I will be transferring them to another folio.    Then, keeping them in storage for 6 months +.

I think I will need to de-vein the largest.   Maybe.   That’s a lot of stem to be winding around a cannagar.      The biggest leaves will likely be reserved for the largest gauges, real party gars.

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Chlorophyll removal experiments

Reposted from El Cannatorcedor Blog / May 2018


I was not satisfied with the shelf life and overall experience with the leaf wrapped cannagars I was making.    So, I went back to the drawing board.   

I spent two weeks in Colorado brainstorming with Xiaolin labs, assisting with experiments which are still ongoing.     Lots of tests, various washes, extended curing, fermenting, heating, all sorts of fun and formula testing.

It’s looking like the leaf process is headed towards an extended leaf cure prior to wrapping, so that the final wrapped cannagar doesn’t have much moisture at all when curing in the finishing mold.   This will kill several birds with one stone, and result in a more stable curing process.

Goals : eliminate chlorophyll, better preservation and shelf life, flavor enhancement techniques, and the perfect white ash.   

Development Ongoing.