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Harvesting for Fresh Frozen

Harvesting for Fresh Frozen

cannabis world news organic growing harvesting drying storing bagged cannabis for freezing

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The hash community has experienced a major shift in its harvest methodologies in recent years. Many single-source hash makers have stopped hanging plants on drying lines and are instead loading freezers with freshly harvested cannabis flowers. Farmers are filling less of their drying sheds and instead bringing in freezers or refrigerator trucks to adapt to the latest trend. In an effort to capture the living plant’s fragrance and taste and to avoid any major volatilization of aroma and flavor compounds, producers are harvesting the plants for what is known as “fresh frozen.” This harvesting methodology is used in both solvent-based and solventless applications. It involves removing the flowers from the stems and getting them into the freezer as soon as possible.

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A major advantage of “fresh frozen” is that it cuts down, or eliminates, drying and trimming costs at scale. A home grower with limited drying space can easily fit their entire homegrown flower into a few freezers to process into ice water hash. It’s important to note that processing “fresh frozen” material does not equal a better quality end product. It simply captures a different expression of the plant for patients and consumers to enjoy.  If you’d like to try your hand at a “fresh frozen” harvest, here is a simple Tools and Procedures List to get you started! 

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Tool List: 


Item Name Example
A fun and happy crew 😀😀😀
Brown Paper Bags/Paper/Painter’s Tape
Calibrated Scale Bench Scale/Platform Scale 
Comfortable Chairs; Opt. Fabric Padded 
Containers/Cups Solo Cups
Freezers 🧊🧊🧊
Freezer Thermometer  🌡️
Gloves 🧤🧤🧤
Heavy Duty Pruning Shears Professional Premium Titanium 
Isopropyl Alcohol (ISO)
Paper Towels
Sharpies Sharpie Brand 
Snips Chikamasas/Fiskars
Table Liners Plastic or Paper (Avoid waxed paper)
Tables Portable/Foldable Table
Totes Heavy Duty Stackable Totes 
Tote Liners The Green Scissor Tote Liners
Turkey Bags (Oven Bags) Buddy Bags Co. (Heavy Duty is important)

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  • Buck Down Crew (Buckers): The group of individuals removing the flower from the branches and stems. (additional duties: regularly sweeps floors, keeps space tidy and organized.) 
  • Harvest Runner(s): An individual(s) designated to harvest the plants continuously throughout the work day. They will help to keep a continuous flow of plant material in the processing space.
  • Processing Leader(s): Maintains a continuous harvest and buck-down flow among the team throughout the work day. Fills turkey bags with bucked flowers. Weighs, labels, and stores the fresh material into the freezers. 
  • cannabis world news organic growing harvesting drying storing author holding huge cannabis bush upside down

Processing Space:

  • Clean freezers and plug them in at least 24 hours before starting to fill. 
  • Set the freezer temperature to the coldest setting. The material should be frozen and stored at 0℉ or lower. The National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends “Freeze foods at 0℉ or lower. To facilitate more rapid freezing, set the temperature control at -10℉ or lower about 24 hours in advance.” [1]

Side Note ➤ Flash freezing is common practice in the food industry. It protects the quality and nutritional value of the food and prevents large ice crystals from forming on the plant matter.  According to The University of Minnesota Extension on the science of freezing food, “Water makes up over 90 percent of the weight of most fruits and vegetables. Water and other chemicals are held within the fairly rigid cell walls that give structure and texture to the fruit or vegetable. When you freeze fruits and vegetables, you are actually freezing the water in the plant cell.” [2] Therefore, “In rapid freezing, a large number of small ice crystals are formed. Small ice crystals produce less cell wall rupture than slow freezing, which produces only a few large ice crystals.” [2]  Most of us in the cannabis community don’t have access to flash-freezing cryogenic equipment to avoid the large ice crystals that cause the most damage to cell membranes yet. We can still take small measures to ensure our cannabis is frozen as quickly and efficiently as possible to achieve a high-quality end product. 

Pro Tip ➤ Place a gallon container of water into the freezer to jump-start the freezer’s sensor. 

Pro Tip ➤ A maintenance check should be done a month before harvest to ensure that all freezers are working.

  • Do not adjust the temperature settings on your freezer once the material has been frozen.        
  • Clean totes. A clean tote liner can be used. 
  • Cover tables with table liners. Replace the table liner with every new cultivar introduced into the room. Cannabis plants are sticky by nature, and this allows for easy clean-up between cultivars. 
  • Fill containers/cups with ISO. Soak snips in the ISO-filled cups as they get covered in resin. Wipe clean with a paper towel before using again. 
  • 2-3 snips per Bucker is ideal. This allows them to swap to clean snips while the other resin-coated snips soak in ISO.
  • To keep the space comfortable, sweep the floors every few hours. 
  • Gloves must be worn at all times during harvest and processing. 
  • All workers should avoid handling the flower directly. 
  • Place one tote on a table in between every 2-4 buckers.
  • Good music or podcasts make for a happy crew. 

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  1. The Harvest Runner(s) will harvest the plant and place it upright in a tote. Do not overcrowd the totes, as this risks smashing the trichomes. Only harvest an amount that the buck-down crew can efficiently buck and get into the freezer within 2 hours to avoid losing volatile aromatics. 

**Depending on the size of the plant and the weather ahead, the tops of the plants can be harvested, and the lower half of the plants can be left in the field to ripen further.


    2. The Harvest Runner(s) will transport the plants into the designated processing space and begin breaking down the plants. The Harvest Runner(s) should break down the plants so that the branches are no more than 12-18” long. This makes it easy for the Buck Down Crew to hold during the buck-down process. 


   3. The Harvest Runner(s) should continually feed the branches to the Buck Down Crew, ensuring that no Bucker is ever without material in front of them during their shift. 


   4. The branches should not be placed in a pile!! This will result in smashed flowers and broken trichomes and add unnecessary humidity to the plant matter. The branches should always be placed in a flat layer, allowing for proper airflow. It’s ideal to designate a table or two for branches. 


   5. The Buckers should remove all dead leaves, yellow leaves, and large fan leaves. Any flowers containing bug damage, mold, rot, or dirt should be discarded. The smaller leaves and their petioles surrounding the flowers should only be removed if they have no trichomes present. 

Pro Tip ➤ Sugar leaves should be left completely intact – trimming the tips of sugar leaves creates an opportunity for chlorophyll to leach during the agitation process.


   6. Flowers should be broken down to a similar size (no larger than 2”) to allow for even hydration before agitation during the ice water sieving process. 


   7. With a larger crew (4 or more), it is easiest to have them buck the flower into a lined tote. 


   8. A smaller team can choose to buck into individual turkey bags or buck into lined totes. 


   9. Pro Tip ➤ The processing space can be outdoors. If it is a warm and sunny day, it’s best to process indoors in cooler temperatures. An ideal room temperature is 60℉ or lower. Remember, if you can smell the volatile compounds, you are losing them. 


   10. The Processing Leader will regularly empty the totes of the plant material and place it into turkey bags. The bags should weigh approximately 2 lbs. It’s important to get the plant material into the freezers as quickly as possible in order to preserve the aromatics. 


11. Each turkey bag must be properly labeled with the name of the cultivar and weight of the material. This information should be written on a piece of paper or painter’s tape. The paper will be placed inside the turkey bag. The painter’s tape will be placed outside the turkey bag. Sharpie ink is notorious for wiping clean off a turkey bag over time. 


   12. Alternatively, the outside of the freezer can be labeled with painter’s tape if it is filled with only one cultivar. The tops of the turkey bags should be tightly rolled closed and placed flat inside of the freezer, like a light and fluffy pillow. This prevents the material from freezing together in a dense, solid mass and allows for proper airflow in the freezer. The freezer should never be overpacked – leaving about 5-7 inches of headspace inside the freezer allows for the best freezer conditions. 

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Other Notes:

  • Do not store food items in your freezers. 
  • Once your freezers are filled, avoid opening and closing them. 
  • Frozen plant matter is extremely brittle. Avoid moving and handling bags unless they’re being transported to the washing vessel. 
  • Do not vacuum seal the bags. This will smash the precious trichomes. 
  • Heat sealing the bags is an option.
  • Laying turkey bags flat in the freezer prevents a dense mass of plant matter from freezing together. In turn, the material is airy, flowy, and not clumped together. When the material is emptied into the wash vessel, it easily falls into the vessel, and there is no need to break apart large clumps of brittle plant matter. This reduces the chance of introducing contaminants into your wash. 
  • The molecular structure and flavor of frozen items begin to change over time – affecting the overall quality. While the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not have guidelines for the maximum shelf life of fruits and vegetables, all other products have a shelf life between 1-12 months, depending on the item frozen. The National Center for Home Food Preservation suggests the highest quality of frozen fruits and vegetables are stored no longer than 8-12 months at 0°, with shorter storage times being ideal. 
  • The longer your material is stored in the freezer, the more susceptible it is to freezer burn. The texture, color, aroma, and flavor of the material will be compromised if it’s affected by freezer burn.
  • Freezers can die on you. There’s nothing more devastating than losing a freezer full of precious plant material and hard work. 
  • Invest in a high-power generator in the event of power outages. 
  • If you experience a power outage, the USDA states, “A freezer full of food will usually last about two days if the door is kept shut; a half-full freezer will last about a day.” [3]
  • It’s best to process your fresh frozen material sooner rather than later
  • Clean your freezers once they have been emptied.
  • Cleanliness is next to godliness. ✨


Happy Harvesting!



  1. National Center for Home Preservation. General Freezing Information.
  2. The University of Minnesota. The science of freezing foods.

  1. USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. Freezing and Food Safety.

Social Media: Instagram:@cannamgardens, Facebook: Lena Cannamgardens

Photo Credits: Dylan Mattole @mattolevalleysungrown, Lena Burns


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