If you love tobacco products, the next step could be to cultivate your own crop – just like you may grow tomato, basil, etc. at home. The fact that tobacco plants are rather pretty too is just an added bonus.
Different Types of Tobacco Plants
There are a variety of different tobacco plants, and your own personal preferences and needs will dictate which one you ultimately choose.
Virginia tobacco originated in the state of Virginia – hence the name. It is also often referred to as Bright leaf tobacco due to its orange, yellow and golden leaves. Virginia tobacco is the most commonly used type for cigarettes. It has large leaves and has even been reported as growing as big as 51 inches (if you have a lot of luck and very green thumbs). The Virginia tobacco plant has a high sugar content.
If you want a lower sugar content, then Burley may be a better option. There is more than one type of Burley, and therefore it can be used for a range of products, including cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco.
The prettiest of these plants is Oriental. Like Virginia tobacco, Oriental can grow very large (around 5 feet) – but serves more of an aesthetic purpose. It has a very low nicotine content and is not really used for any type of consumption. However, it does give off a pleasant aroma – another reason to keep it in the house.
Rustica is the preferred tobacco for water pipes, as it infuses well when soaked in water. It is mainly grown in Africa, North America and warmer climates such as India. This type has Mayan origins, and is sometimes referred to as ucuch in Mexico.
Is it Difficult to Grow Tobacco?
Tobacco seedlings can be a little temperamental and may not take the first time (or two) that you try. And speaking of temperamental, temperature really is one of the most important aspects to consider when growing tobacco plants. They require approximately 24-27 degrees Celsius, so keep them indoors (unless you live in a tropical climate). Tobacco seeds are very small (think microscopic), so make sure that you get a nice and even spread between the seeds when planting them – the size of the seeds could make this more difficult than you imagine. Experts recommend using small pots in the beginning (to grow seedlings) and to water these pots frequently. If you do not want to invest in tiny pots, experienced amateurs recommend old egg trays. Feel free to check on them and love on them – but do not disturb them too much before you see some proper plants sprouting, which should occur within 7-14 days. If nothing has grown up after 3 weeks, perhaps it is time to try again.
If you have some success, and your seedlings grow to 10 mm, it is time to take them out of the tiny pots. Place them in some larger pots, but keep them 3 feet apart from one another, so that they have enough space to grow and reach their full potential. At this stage, do not water them as often as before. 4-5 months later, you should have some good-looking plants! At this stage, they will have grown out of their temperamental ways and become pretty resistant to most things. You will not need to worry about them too much.
Now the question is: what comes next so you can smoke the leaves? You will know that they have reached maturity when flowers begin to grow at the head. Remove these flowers. Make sure that the leaves are not turning yellow – if they appear to be, then pick them. It is best to harvest leaves that are still green. Before you can consume them, you need to hang them in a humid climate of more than 18 degrees Celsius. Attics or garages were perfectly designed for this purpose. Do not let the leaves touch each other or anything else while hanging (except the wire of course). Watch out for mold or brittleness – if mold occurs, discard them. Brittle leaves can sometimes be remedied by spraying them with a fine mist. But beware of too much water – you do not want them to get soaked and moldy. Keep the leaves hanging for at least 2 months (preferably longer), put them in a food processor, and then sample your very own tobacco.
There are some benefits to growing your own tobacco – such as price and a lack of pesticides. But perhaps the greatest reward is enjoying the fruit of your own labors!