Tobacco. Love it or hate it, it’s here to stay. Whether you smoke it in a pipe, cigar, cigarette, or even chew it, you are taking in the same nicotine. Albeit in different levels.
Fast Facts About Tobacco Strains
1. Tobacco belongs to the same family (Solanaceae) as tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant. It must be the black sheep of the family.
2. There are 66 different tobacco strains. Out of those 66 tobacco strains, only 2 strains are smokeable – Nicotiana rustica Linnaeus and Nicotiana tabacum Linnaeus. Both strains are named after Swedish Botanist Carolus Linnaeus (must have been one heck of a smoker).
3. Of the 2 tobacco strains that are smokeable, most of the worlds “smokes” come from the Nicotiana tabucum strain.
4. Tobacco originated from Hispaniola – what we call Haiti and the Dominican Republic today. Its first use in the West was as a decorative plant, then a panacea (cure-all remedy) before it evolved into snuff and modern-day tobacco as we know it today.
5. One of Columbus’ crewmen, Rodrigo de Jerez was the first known European smoker. He was incarcerated for it as exhaling smoke was considered to be satanic. Talk about a career going up in smoke.
Types of Common Tobacco Plants
1. Virginia Gold Tobacco
This type of tobacco is named after Virginia, the US state as it was first cultivated there. It is called Virginia gold tobacco (sometimes called “bright tobacco”) due to the golden yellow color it becomes when flue-cured. It is a favorite among classic English brands like Dunhill and Benson & Hedges.
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2. Oriental Tobacco
The smallest and toughest of the commercial tobaccos, Oriental tobacco is grown in the summer seasons of the Balkans, the Middle East, and Turkey. The climatic conditions within which it is grown, the high planting density, and the sun-curing give it an amazing aromatic flavor. Think Turkish cigarettes.
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3. Burley Tobacco
This tobacco plant is a lighter shade of the Virginia tobacco plant and turns brown after being air-cured. The curing process eliminates all sugars in it, giving the end product a cigar like taste.
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4. Criollo Tobacco
Criollo tobacco is one of the original tobaccos that came out of Cuba during the time of Christopher Columbus. It is mainly used in the making of cigars. The name “Criollo” means native seed.
5. Havana Tobacco
Source of the very famous, or is it infamous, Cuban cigar, the Havana tobacco is a very flavorful tobacco leaf. Its strong flavor makes it a favorite for chewing. Because of the interest Havana tobacco attracts, let’s take a closer look at it.
Havana Tobacco – How to Grow It in Your Back Garden
Havana tobacco can be grown in your own backyard for personal use (be warned, the curing process requires special facilities and can take up to 3 years) or for ornamental purposes. Need a natural pesticide? Your Havana tobacco plant works as a natural pesticide too.
Before you rush out and look for some Havana tobacco seeds (which can be difficult find since they are only produced for commercial purposes) make sure your soil type is suitable to sustain your crop. Ensure the soil you grow your Havana tobacco in is a well-drained soil and the location sunny.
Time to get your hands dirty.
1. Get Your Havana Tobacco Seeds
As said earlier, getting the commercial variety is difficult to obtain but you can get a seed pack on Amazon for a paltry $3. Be careful with handling though, an ounce can contain as much as 300 000 seeds and looks more like finely ground coffee.
2. Planting Your Tobacco Seeds
Once you have procured your seed, be sure to plant them (sprinkle them on top of the soil and firm them into the soil) in a greenhouse or protected area. If you are short on space or want to grow a few plants, simply sprinkle a few of your precious seed on top of some soil in a flower pot. Make sure to add a little fertilizer to your soil.
3. Watering The Seeds
Because Havana tobacco seeds are delicate, you will have to be extra careful when watering. Here are 2 tips:
- Spray water on them
- Put a plate with water under the flower pot
The soil surface must be moist – avoid excess water, it will kill your plants.
4. Transplanting The Seedlings
Once your crop has germinated, you can transplant it as you would any other plant, making sure to leave a space of 24" between plants.
5. Maintaining Your Crop
If you are growing your crop for personal use you will need to “top” the plant as soon as flowers form. If you are growing for ornamental purposes:
- Enjoy the bloom if it’s the flowers you enjoy
- Top the plant if it’s the leaves you would rather have. Topping makes the leaves grow larger than in an “untopped” plant.
From Cuba, With Love
There you have it. Everything you need to know about your favorite plant in the world. All the way from Cuba into your backyard – with love.