“How do I flavor weed?” is a common question by new growers. While I truly believe that the best marijuana flavor is achieved from a properly cured bud, the idea of occasionally ‘flavoring’ some marijuana or making flavored weed seems like a fun concept to experiment with. Weed combined with chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, cherry, root beer, and citrus flavors are relatively common flavors that have been experimented with.
The “Natural” Way to Flavor Weed
Most cannabis strains have some natural flavors on their own. In fact, growers have spent years breeding cannabis strains that produce a natural bouquet of scents and aroma that mimic other flavors.
Some cannabis strains you may have heard of include Super Lemon Haze, Strawberry Cough, Blueberry OG, Grapefruit, and probably different variations of lemon, grapefruit, sage, strawberry, blueberry, other berries, etc.
Generally these strains have been bred to specifically be reminiscent of their namesake, but often need the right growing conditions in order to turn out as expected. For this reason, many who decide to grow these strains may be disappointed to find out their home-grown doesn’t taste exactly how they remember when they last tried that strain. It often takes some experimentation to get the desired result.
Pineapple Chunk (by Barneys Farm) – Indica
A lot of the time when someone says a strain smells or tastes like a fruit, they mean that you’ll get small hints of that smell in the undertones. With Pineapple Chunk the buds actually smell sweet, and some really do smell and taste quite a bit like pineapple! Especially if you follow the growing instructions listed below, you’ll yield the best taste!
Although not the highest yielding, this strain produces buds that always get a surprising number of positive comments about the taste and smell, and the bud effects are very smooth.
You will be able to start smelling the pineapple when the plant is still in the flowering stage, but the smell is most pronounced after the buds have been dried and cured.
Super Lemon Haze (by Greenhouse Seeds) – Sativa
Smells lemony, and certain plants will end up smelling just like a Lemonhead with a mix of citrus, sour and sweet. The potency is surprisingly strong, energetic and creative, perfect for daytime use. Doesn’t usually cause ‘couchlock’ so many people like this strain for daytime use.
Here is an example of a room full of Super Lemon Haze plants
…and a Super Lemon Haze cola
Blue AutoMazar (by Dutch Passion) – Autoflowering strain, smells like blueberry
A cross between two autoflowering strains from breeder Dutch Passion, this strain is as much about taste and smell as it is about potency!
Here’s a list of more “taste-famous” strains but there are tons and tons of them!
- Chocolope – chocolate
- Bubbleicious – bubble gum
- Blueberry – blueberry
So that is the first step in flavoring weed – finding the right strain! If you go to a major seed bank they often have a way to find the taste/smell you want.
For example, Seedsman has a strain selector you can use, and towards the bottom of the page you have the option to actually search for strains based on taste! They’ve got everything from fuel to peach! I love Seedsman as a seed source because they only carry strains by breeders who have already proven themselves, ship around the world, and have been in business since 2003. They’re very professional, and at least for right now, they are probably as close as you can get to a “real store” for seeds in the US 🙂
What about other, more straightforward methods to flavor cannabis buds? Well there are two basic times to enhance the essence of your cannabis buds: before you harvest the cannabis or after you harvest the cannabis. Although you can change the actual natural taste of your cannabis during the grow, most methods to try to actually alter the natural smell/taste after the grow don’t work well. When it comes to the time after harvest, you have an even more important job – you must dry and cure your buds properly or they may smell like grass or lose their smell altogether!
Grow in “Living” Soil (Super Soil)
Even better than giving your plant organic nutrients is to grow with your roots in a living soil. In other words, this is a type of soil with an active colony of microorganisms. It is like the soil a plant would be using in nature, only it’s even better because it’s been amended with exactly the right kind of nutrients and supplements. There’s evidence buds grown in this medium tend to have a more varied and complex terpene profile, which may lead to buds that smell and taste better.
Greenhouse Seeds has been leading the way in cannabis terpene and terpenoid research by growing cannabis in a variety of ways and then directly measuring the terpene content in the buds. They have found that while hydroponic grows tend to get much higher yields (with the exception of a few Indica strains), soil-grown buds tend to have a more complex terpene profile. You can see the results of the terpene analysis here.
Living soil is often referred to as “Super Soil” in the cannabis world; this just means soil that has been amended and composted. This creates a “micro-herd” of microorganisms in the soil, which break down and feed nutrients directly to your plant roots. As a result, you don’t have to provide extra nutrients or worry about the pH of your soil, because your micro-herd is doing all the work for you. You just water your plants and that’s it!
The one downside is plants tend to grow a little slower compared to using liquid nutrients, but as a reward for using super soil your buds will be much more fragrant, with a lovely bouquet of smells that’s difficult to produce any other way.
If you’re serious about maximizing the taste and smell of your buds, growing in super soil is probably one of the best-known ways to achieve that goal!
Improve Flavor During the Course of Your Grow
Specialized Nutrients & Supplements
When it comes to nutrients and supplements, you have several choices that can help improve the overall scent of your buds. In fact, many products have been formulated specifically to increase and enhance the smell of cannabis buds.
Here’s what you need to keep in mind when it comes to nutrients and supplements…
Only Use “Bloom” (Low Nitrogen) Nutrients in the Flowering Stage
When your plant is in the flowering stage it’s important to make sure you only use specially formulated “flowering” cannabis nutrients, as these nutrients are made for the budding stage and will have lower levels of nitrogen and higher levels of potassium and phosphorous – exactly what your plant wants!
Avoid Chemical Nutrients
Try to avoid chemical nutrients and only use nutrients made from living sources (made from things like kelp, guano, bone meal, worm castings, etc).
Chemical nutrients are nutrient sources listed on the nutrient bottle with molecular compound names like Ammonium Phosphate, Magnesium Carbonate, Potassium Nitrate, etc.
Chemical nutrients have great qualities that make them attractive to a lot of growers. They increase the rate of vegetative growth and may possibly even contribute to greater bud potency. Using them won’t necessarily “hurt” the smell of buds, but these do not seem to contribute to smell as much as when the plant is using nutrients from living sources. The best smell-related results seem to occur when nutrients are getting broken down in the soil instead of being delivered directly to roots in their most simple chemical form.
The “GO Box” by General Organics offers a nutrient line made of only organic ingredients and specialized for growing plants like cannabis
Another great option is the Fox Farms Nutrient trio for soil. This is a complete cannabis nutrient system that can support your plants from seed to harvest. Although “Tiger Bloom” and “Grow Big” are not 100% organic, they use high quality ingredients and consistently produce great results in soil as far as smell and appearance. The “Big Bloom” part of the trio is probably the best part. It is completely organic and although it’s not a complete food source on its own, it can be used by itself as a Bloom Booster for plants in soil. It’s a bit more difficult to give too much “Big Bloom” to your plants since it’s basically a soup of natural sources of nutrients! (Still, don’t go crazy!)
Restrict Overall Nutrient Levels in Last 6 Weeks of Flowering
Cannabis plants do a lot of vegetative growth during the first several weeks of flowering and need a lot of nutrients to power that growth. However, around 6 weeks after the switch to flowering, they’ve mostly stopped growing new stems and leaves altogether and at this point, their nutrient needs go down quite a bit.
Around week 6 of the flowering stage, your plants will mostly stop growing new stems and leaves, and needs lower levels of nutrients (especially Nitrogen) until harvest
Now, you don’t want to starve your plant of nutrients in the flowering stage because that will cause early leaf yellowing and ultimately hurt yields and bud appearance. If your plant already looks pale green all over, you don’t want to reduce nutrient levels further.
However, as far as smell is concerned, it’s important not to go overboard during the last 6 weeks of the flowering stage with nutrients, especially Nitrogen, as it can deposit a “green” or “chemical” taste/smell to buds. This is true whether you’re using chemical or organic nutrients, though it’s harder to over-fertilize with organic nutrients.
High levels of nutrients, especially the kind found in liquid plant food, can deposit extra nutrients into the buds themselves, possibly altering the taste and smell. After buds are fully formed you don’t want to overdo it with Nitrogen or other nutrients. In addition to hurting the smell, too much Nitrogen can also prevent buds from fattening properly!
NO Scent Neutralizers
Some products are great at neutralizing the smell of cannabis…almost too good.
ONA products are strong enough to neutralize a whole room of almost any smell (it was designed for sewers!), leaving a strong chemical-y clean scent. The problem with scent neutralizers is they can actually alter the smell of the buds themselves. If you use a lot of products that leave a strong artificial “clean” smell (perfume, cologne, Febreeze, ONA products, etc) in the air near your developing buds, it can affect your buds even if they never get touched.
If a product leaves a strong smell of chemicals or perfume in the air, don’t use it near your plants!
The Glade plug-in in your bathroom isn’t going to affect the smell of your buds, but if you spray a lot of Febreeze in the grow space whenever guests come over, or put something like ONA gel in your tent with your plants, your buds may come out smelling just like Febreeze or ONA even if they never come in direct contact. If you don’t know what’s causing the odd taste/smell to your buds, this can be really frustrating!
Learn how to completely scrub all smells using a carbon filter – they work better than any spray product and won’t affect the scent of your buds!
Supplements can be a controversial topic when it comes to growing cannabis, and there are hundreds of options with new products frequently appearing on the market. It can be tough to cut through all the marketing speak and figure out what actually is going to make a difference in your grow. Here’s a list of the most common (and least controversial) supplements that improve taste:
Many sugar or carbohydrate-based supplements claim to improve the taste/smell/sweetness of buds. A cheap alternative to expensive sugar-based bloom boosting supplements is blackstrap molasses. Giving this to your plants for the last few weeks before harvest can help them get bigger and taste/smell better.
It’s not specially made for plants; it’s the regular stuff you’ll find in your kitchen or at the grocery store). Blackstrap molasses adds sugars, amino acids and trace minerals. Unfortunately for hydro growers, anything organic like molasses is not suitable for a hydroponic reservoir! But molasses works great for soil and coco growers 🙂
For the last 2-3 weeks before harvest, give 1/2 tsp of Blackstrap Molasses per gallon when watering (for soil or coco coir)
Improve or Enhance Natural Bloom Processes
This group contains ingredients that are meant to help the plant do its job better. In addition to carbohydrates or sugar, these types of supplements also contain extracts from plant, marine, and mineral sources, as well as things like vitamins, amino acids, polyflavonoids, etc.
The jury is still out and which is the most effective supplement, but some of the most popular cannabis supplements based on this type of formula include…
- Floralicious Plus (by General Hydroponics)
- Liquid Karma (by Botanicare)
- Diamond Black (by General Organics)
Note: These are only for soil or coco coir! (Since these supplements contain a lot of organic materials like guano and fishmeal, they are not suitable to hydroponic reservoirs)
Supplements that “add” a taste or smell to buds
I’m really intrigued by Botanicare’s Sweet Carbo line. According to Botanicare:
The natural esters in Sweet are easily absorbed by the plant, but are not broken down further once deposited within the plant tissue. This means that as new flowers develop they will contain small amounts of these natural esters which contribute to the overall flavor and aroma of the finished product.
They offer flavors such as grape, citrus, berry, and “raw” (which is just a generally sweet smell). These should be used throughout the flowering stage to help build smell/flavor in the buds as they mature. However, since these contain a small but significant amount of magnesium, they should not be used while flushing during last 2-3 weeks before harvest. At this point, the smells have already been deposited into the buds. Another cool thing about these supplements is they contain amino acids and some other enhancers, so it’s kind of like getting a lot of different products at once.
Other growers who’ve tried the “raw” version have said they can definitely notice an increase in the amount of “sweet” taste and smell in their buds, and it’s made me jealous. For my next grow I plan to use one of these Sweet products as my primary supplement for the flowering stage. I’ll report back whether they make as big a difference as they say 🙂
All these supplements have been developed specifically for enhancing plants like cannabis! Just be careful not to go overboard!
The more types of supplements you use, the bigger the chance you might end up burning or causing a nutrient lockout problem with your plants. If possible, always try to use all supplements and nutrients from the same nutrient company. This lessens the chance of unwanted interactions since the whole line is designed to work together. When in doubt, go for an established nutrient company that has been around for years over one that has just appeared recently!
Flush 1-2 Weeks Before Harvest
If you’ve been giving your plants extra nutrients in their water, then it’s recommended to stop using them 1-2 weeks before harvest time. This gives the plant time to use up any extra nutrients contained in the plant so they are less likely to come through in the taste of your buds.
If you’re not giving your plants extra nutrients in their water (for example if you’re growing in super soil) than there’s no need to flush before harvest because you’ve already been giving your plants plain water from the beginning. Your micro-herd is taking care of getting the nutrients to your plants without going overboard, and by this point in the grow you will have used up a lot of the extra nutrients.
In regular soil it’s common to flush for 1-2 weeks before harvest because there’s still some amount of nutrients contained in the soil.
In coco or hydro there are no extra nutrients as a buffer, so it’s recommended you flush for only a few days to a week. Giving a really long flush in a soilless medium can cause leaves to turn yellow and die too early. This hurts yields and can make buds look less attractive if the sugar leaves turn yellow too.
“Clearing” or “Salt Leaching” Solutions
These products are formulated to help remove extra minerals or salts when flushing the plant, which may reduce the chance that these minerals end up altering the smell or flavor of your buds.
They’re meant to be used if you’ve been giving your plants extra nutrients in their water; they aren’t necessary when the plant has been getting all its nutrients from the soil. If you’ve got an active microbial colony in your soil, these might do more harm than good, but they’re a great choice for growers in soilless mediums like coco or hydro where the plant is getting all its nutrition from liquid nutrients.
Harvest Using the Right Technique
The most important thing about harvesting cannabis is to…
- Harvest at the right time. Smells (terpenes) build up throughout the flowering stage. If you harvest too early you will have far lower levels of terpenes, and your buds won’t be nearly as fragrant as they would be if they had been allowed to develop to maturity.
- Trim buds on their stems so you can hang them upside down to dry. Compared to some other methods, drying on stems makes it easier to get it exactly right. Although not 100% necessary, drying this way gives buds a lot more of a water buffer and makes it much easier to dry buds slowly. Drying buds slowly during the first few days after harvest is crucial to producing cannabis that smells like it did in flowering.
- Avoid handling buds more than necessary. Bad or rough handling can destroy terpenes and reduce the overall aroma of your buds. Of course you need to touch buds at times, but avoid touching them when you don’t need to. (This is tough one for me but I still try!)
How to Improve Flavor After Harvest
(CRUCIAL – don’t skip this!)
Drying Your Buds – Read the Complete Drying Tutorial
- Dry buds slowly! Drying buds too quickly can give them a “green” or minty sort of taste and smell that doesn’t go away even after curing. It’s normal for buds to smell sort of like grass or hay immediately after drying, but if you dried them slowly the smell will come back after a few days into the curing process.
- Maintain a temperature of about 70°F while drying. A good general range for drying is between 60-75°F. However, even though keeping the temperature lower helps prevent terpenes from burning off, the range between 60-70°F is perfect for mold. Because of those factors, I recommend keeping your drying temperature around 70°F if possible.
- Try to maintain ~50% humidity while drying. In the space where buds are drying, you’d like about 50% RH. Humidity that is 40% and lower tends to dry out buds too fast. Humidity that is 60% or higher makes it much more likely you’ll get mold, and buds often take a very long time to dry.
- Buds are dry when they snap off instead of bend. When buds feel completely dry and pop off their stems without leaving strings behind, they are done drying and ready to put in jars. At this point, the small stems on the branches will snap, but the bigger ones may still bend without snapping (bending means there is still water contained inside).
Curing Your Buds in Jars – Read the Full Curing Tutorial
The curing process may seem unnecessary if you’ve never done it before, but it is going to significantly improve the taste, smell and overall smoothness of your buds. You simply cannot skip the curing process and get cannabis that lives up to its potential.
There are chemical processes that happen in the buds themselves during the curing process that drastically changes their scent. These processes also increase the perceived potency of buds and many find the mental/body effects of buds to be much stronger and/or more pleasant after buds have been cured.
- Put buds in jars. Place your newly dried and separated buds in quart-sized mason jars as this is the beginning of the “curing” process. Fill jars 80% full of buds and close them up.
- Watch out for rising humidity levels! If you’ve dried your buds slowly and put them in the jars at the right time, the overall humidity in the jar is going to rise over time as the moisture from inside the buds works its way to the outside. If buds ever feel moist or are sticking together in the jar, it means there’s too much water contained inside and the jar should be left open for a few minutes to an hour to help dry things out. If this happens to you, check on buds frequently until the humidity has stabilized. Buds should always feel completely dry.
If you’re interested in closely monitoring your humidity during the curing process, I like the Caliber IV hygrometer, which is small enough to fit in your curing jars and can be found online for cheap. A hygrometer is more of a luxury than a necessity, though it will take out a lot of the guesswork. In this pic, the Caliber IV hygrometers display both the temperature and the relative humidity in each curing jar.
- At first, open the jars daily to let in air and check on buds. If using a hygrometer you want to keep the RH around 60-65% in the jars. For those who don’t want to monitor the humidity closely you can get specialized “humidipacks” that are designed for curing cannabis. These automatically maintain the humidity around 62%, which is perfect for curing!
Boveda 62 humidipacks automatically maintain the humidity in jars around 62% RH for you during the curing process
- Open jars less often after 1-2 weeks of checking daily. As long as buds have stabilized and never feel wet when you check on them, you can start opening the jars less often. You leave jars closed for a few days at first, then a week, etc.
- Buds are considered “done” curing after 2-4 weeks, though many growers agree that bud quality and smell will continue to improve for several months of curing.
- Again, it’s normal for buds to smell like hay at first. When you first put buds in the jars, they’re going to smell a little “green” like grass or hay. They will have lost a lot of their “cannabis” smell that was assaulting your nose in the flowering stage 🙂 This is completely normal and your cannabis smell will come back over the first several days to weeks of curing.
- Watch out for the smell of ammonia or an unpleasant “funk.” Whenever you open your jars and take a little whiff, watch out for the smell of ammonia or a bad “funky” kind of scent. That could mean that extra moisture in the jar is causing anaerobic bacteria to grow when it’s sealed up. If you smell something that doesn’t seem right, keep the lids off your jars for an hour to help buds dry out a bit, and check again tomorrow to make sure the smell has cleared up.