🇺🇸 Retired veteran, father, rock-climbing expert & rosin connoisseur.
It’s harvest time, and all your hard work in the garden is finally paying off. As busy as this season always gets, it’s important to thoughtfully plan how to maximize the fruits of your labor. Any part of the cannabis plant that bears resin contains value. Properly assessing that value, plus the methods that make the most sense to capture it, is key. Wasting your farm’s bounty not only hurts your bottom line, but it diminishes the high value of the medicine you’ve cultivated. Using all parts of the cannabis plant honors its power to heal.
Minimize waste, maximize returns. That’s the name of the game.
Trim, Leaves, and Stems Defined
Trim refers to a specific category of leaves that grow near the flowers and contain a significant amount of trichomes. Growers cut away the trim, or trim leaves, prior to selling the flowers as smokeable product. However, since the trim is covered with trichomes, it’s generally left intact for washing hash.
Trim, also called sugar leaves, tends to be smaller in size than other leaves and generally do not outstretch much beyond the flowers.
Although trim leaves are sometimes cut away from the flowers, they are definitely worth keeping. We’ll look at ways to use them in a bit.
Any leaves that don’t contain significant trichomes are simply referred to as the “leaves” on a cannabis plant, which include the large fan leaves. While leaves provide energy to the cannabis plant, they don’t provide resin to the farmer.
Stems are the woody axis that support the leaves. While sometimes stems can bear trichomes, they’re no good to the extractor or the consumer. Like the branches of the cannabis plant, stems are not considered a usable product.
How To Identify Trim That’s Worth Keeping
Trim that’s growing directly out of the cannabis flowers is normally covered in trichomes. Since trichomes contain resin, they are always worth keeping. Growers who send flowers to hash makers for ice water extraction can generally leave these small trim leaves intact. No need to remove them.
However, growers who are sending these flowers to market as smokeable product need to remove the trim leaves, as they are not as smooth to burn as the flowers themselves. Save the sugar leaves, don’t throw them away.
You can tell which trim is good to keep by visually inspecting it for trichomes. If it looks like it’s covered in sugar, it’s good to keep.
Growers and extractors can use trim for washing bubble hash, making pre rolls, crafting edibles, or processing vape cartridges.
Can You Use Leaves and Stems?
For practical purposes, leaves and stems are by-products. Waste. While they do contain some useful cannabinoids, it’s difficult to extract them at scale. Farmers who have lots of leaves and stems as leftover biomass often mulch it. In this form, it’s easier to dispose of by scattering it away from the active growing environment.
Leaves contain many therapeutic compounds, it’s just that they’re not easy to unlock and utilize. Leaves are good for making smoothies or adding to salads, but they’re no good for solventless extraction.
That said, there are some commercial applications for stems and leaves such as hemp-based paper, building materials such as hempcrete, textiles, or CBD products.
So how can growers process their harvest to maximize usable trim leaves?
Hand or Machine Trimming
Assuming a grower is taking their flowers to market as smokable buds, they will trim away all the sugar leaves. And these will be great source material for ice water extraction, or making infusions for edibles.
Keep all the trim in a clean, contained space, as the resin can easily fall away. Handle it like you handle any resin, with care.
Check out our article Pros and Cons of Hand Trimming vs Machine Trimming. Whichever approach you take, be sure to save the trim.
Kief tumblers are machines that help trichomes break away from trim leaves so the resin is easy to collect. Processors load trim leaves into a large drum that’s essentially a rigid sieve that rotates around an axis. As the plant material tumbles inside the drum, the small trichomes can pass through the screened sides while the rest of the material stays inside the drum.
The trichomes that come out are referred to as kief. Processors can use this in a variety of ways, such as enriching pre-rolls or infusing oils for making edibles or tinctures.
Don’t miss out on profits that are right in front of you. Harness the full potential of the cannabis plant.
It’s important to minimize waste and maximize returns, not only for financial gain but also as a way to honor the plant's remarkable ability to heal. From valuable trichome-rich trim leaves to leaves and stems, which are often considered by-products, growers can identify and utilize trim leaves efficiently, offering practical post-harvest processing methods like hand or machine trimming and kief tumblers for trichome collection.
Using the plant as fully as possible, growers can contribute to a more responsible and profitable industry while preserving the therapeutic and healing potential of the cannabis plant.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is the importance of assessing and utilizing trim, leaves, and stems during the cannabis harvest?
Properly assessing and utilizing these parts is crucial to minimize waste and maximize returns. Any part of the cannabis plant that bears resin contains value, which is essential not only for financial gain but also to honor the plant's healing potential.
How can one distinguish trim that is worth keeping for various applications?
Trim that is covered in trichomes and growing directly out of the cannabis flowers is typically worth keeping, as trichomes contain resin. It's important to visually inspect the trim for trichomes, and if it looks like it's covered in sugar, it's suitable for use in applications like making bubble hash, pre-rolls, edibles, or processing vape cartridges.
What is the practical use of leaves and stems from the cannabis plant?
Leaves and stems are often considered by-products, and while they do contain some useful cannabinoids, they can be challenging to extract at scale. However, they can be used in applications such as hemp-based paper, building materials like hempcrete, textiles, or the production of CBD products.
What are the recommended post-harvest processing methods to maximize usable trim leaves?
Two common post-harvest processing methods are hand or machine trimming. When preparing cannabis for the market as smokable buds, it's advised to trim away sugar leaves, which can be used as source material for ice water extraction or making infusions for edibles. Regardless of the trimming approach, it's important to save the trim in a clean, contained space.
How can growers efficiently collect trichomes from trim leaves using kief tumblers?
Kief tumblers are machines that help trichomes break away from trim leaves. Processors load trim leaves into a large drum that rotates, allowing small trichomes to pass through the screened sides while the rest of the material remains inside the drum. The trichomes collected, known as kief, can be used in various ways, such as enriching pre-rolls or infusing oils for making edibles or tinctures.