What does Curing mean?
Curing encompasses a variety of food preservation and flavoring methods, especially for foods like meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables.
In horticulture in particular, curing is a process that involves drying the moisture out of plant material. Many plants are cured, such as hemp, sagebrush, bay leaves, tea leaves, and tobacco.
Historically, plants were harvested by cutting the stem at the base and then the entire plant was hung upside down to dry. This process was known as air curing. Normally, the plants are hung in a well-ventilated dark shed, barn, or garage for up to a month to completely dry out. Plants such as sagebrush, bay leaves, or tobacco are often cured by harvesting small leaves and stems from the plant. The leaves and stems are then bundled together to cure and just hung in a closet or some other dark location.
Curing can involve different processes for different types of plants. For instance, some plants require a two step process that involves drying, and then curing. Medicinal herbs are usually placed in glass jars for a number of weeks once they have been dried in order to enhance the flavor and potency of the product.
Some plants can also be sun-cured, which entails hanging the plants in the full sun to dry. Heat can also be used to cure plants. The leaves are hung on sticks and exposed to low heat. Great care is taken not to have smoke or fire near the leaves during the curing process.
Some types of tea leaves must be exposed to heat during curing so that they oxidize and become sweet. Plants can also be placed in a brown paper bags or mason jar in a warm, dry location to successfully cure.
Curing time varies depending on humidity, the type of plant involved, and the water content of the plant at the time it is harvested. There are a few different methods of drying and curing plants, but it all cases, environmental control and the duration of the drying period are what ultimately lead to a quality product.
Throughout the curing stage, products must be closely watched to ensure mold growth doesn’t occur.