All About Tobacco
Hi Folks! Lee Williamson here!
Today I want to share some info on tobacco.
!! Warning !!
This is a pro Tobacco post - There are serious health concerns when consuming Tobacco products and these should be looked into by any health conscious adult.
Tobacco is grown all over the world and has been consumed in various forms for thousands of years. A few of the more common methods of consumption are smoking, chewing, and snuffing. This post is going to focus on various aspects of smoking tobacco. If I see any people wanting more info on chewing or snuffing I'd be happy to go in-depth on those later.
Tobacco is grown in all types of soil but typically loam to sandy loam are considered the best. Here's some loam.
We'll just imagine the sandy loam looks like that and is a bit sandier! :) No?!? Fine ya needy bastards here's some sandy loam.
Actually there's not much of a visual difference. What we're really talking about here is a mixture of sand silt and clay and the various %'s of each and it's important for root strength of the plants and water absorbtion. Here's a little infographic on soil.
These types of soil (loam and sandy loam) are found in most settled areas and it makes growing tobacco at home a doable thing for quite a few people. Something I find many smokers never consider.
I find it interesting that in the good ole U S of A most tobacco farms are quite small averaging something like 8 acres of tobacco per farm. I find it awesome that most of these farms offer some sort of direct buy program where you can get a few lbs at a time. Supporting a small farmer and buying directly from them is the way to go and the fact that most of these guys are selling lbs of tobacco leaves at way cheaper cost than you can buy shredded tobacco at the corner store for cigarettes is amazing.
Sauce for the acreage stat - http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/ers/TBS/2000s/2004/TBS-11-08-2004_Special_Report.pdf
Here's some pictures I got from leafonly.com showing a pretty typical American tobacco farm.
At maturity the plants will look like this.
From here various methods go various and the picking and curing process can drastically flavor the smoke. A lot of the worlds tobacco is still picked by hand. So what we'll see in the fields is every week or so a picker will go out and select the most mature leaves on a plant probably just one or two per plant and pick those off and tie them together and leave them in the field to start to dry and let the chlorophyll (green color and taste ... seriously taste like ... green) "evaporate". After it's field cured enough it will be moved to a sunless area to cure some more and develop the nice brown color we know in tobacco leaves we see as consumers. This is some tobacco curing in an open air barn.
It's been done that way for a very long time and it's still a manner used often today. Of course modern methods are employed by the finer growers and the more variables they can control during the curing process the finer they can hone their products.
Now at this point it's pretty ready to go and depending on what you want to do with it you can just start right up. This is the type of leaf you will be buying from a small farmer. Just grown dried bundled and sold, it's a pretty natural process. Now I personally enjoy smoking spliffs and so the leaf needs to be processed a bit before its ready. Really whatever you decide to do with it, if you're smoking it, you're going to be removing the stem. A just cured leaf is going to look something like this. And have a large stem going down the middle.
That stem will need to be removed. Removing the stem is as easy as firmly grasping it and pulling it away from the leaf material this is a bit of a tearing action and some people like to use scissors. I think pulling it away is best and waste less leaf as long as the leaf is at the proper moisture level.
Note that this leaf looks a bit dry and steaming it with a tea pot or professional leaf steamer will save you some time and tobacco in the end. Dry crumbly tobacco sucks and moisture is important. A good humidor can go a long way for this type of issue.
Now after the leaf has been de-stemmed most people will say you need a good tobacco shredder to get the job done but I just like smoking spliffs and so I find that just cutting a nice wrapper sized sheet out of the leaf and then a few little shredded bits to mix with my pot is quite wonderful.
I made this post because a buddy introduced me to leafonly.com recently and I thought it was awesome. I am in no way connected to leafonly.com or sponsored by them and this isn't supposed to be some sort of advertisement. There are other similar places that offer small farm tobacco at good prices and they are easily googled. I like the videos on the leafonly site and the guys seem to have a passion for their work.