Tobacco. Hate it? Love it? Regardless of what you think of it, tobacco is enjoyed and reviled worldwide. Cigarettes in particular are heavily taxed, and smokers have been banished to the outer limits of darkened street corners to enjoy their vice. Now, I’ve never had a cigarette in my life. I enjoy cigars, but I’m not going to pretend that they’re any healthier. I smoke roughly 2-3 per month on average, but the experience isn’t simply to get nicotine. It’s for the unique flavor each cigar possesses, and the social aspect. A quality cigar is, to me, like a nice wine or a good scotch. Like wine and scotch, each year, brand, and type offer distinct flavors that are usually pretty complex, with descriptions of vanilla, chocolate, licorice, oak, cherry, etc. not uncommon.
So, yes, there’s a big difference between cigar tobacco and cigarette tobacco. The majority of people smoke cigarettes because they’re addicted, and it’s part of their daily routine. Having a smoke with a cup of coffee may be enjoyed by some, but most cigarette
smokers find themselves outside on a 10 minute breaking smoking like a locomotive before hustling back in to their stressful job.
I’m one for taking on projects and trying new things so in 2011, I grew my first tobacco plants. There is a great website that’s pretty self-explanatory: http://www.howtogrowtobacco.com/ This is where a bunch of new and old tobacco growers share their experiences, tips, and photo’s of their growing adventures. The growers range from farmers with large plots of land to a backyard enthusiasts. Growing your own tobacco has grown in popularity, particularly for cigarette smokers who are feeling the pinch of paying about $8 for a single pack (In Rhode Island). Consider that a single tobacco plant can produce enough tobacco for about 4 packs of cigarettes. At that rate, you would need to grow 91 plants in order to have a years worth of cigarettes. Sounds like a lot? Read on!
If you’re a pack-a-day choker…erm, smoker…you’re paying about $3,000/year on cigarettes. From http://www.newhopeseeds.com you can purchase 100 tobacco seeds for $2.50. If you don’t want to go through the trouble of growing from seed, you can buy up to 12 starter plants for $30. 12 plants = 48 packs (or $384 if you bought the equivalent number of packs in the store). There’s all different types of seeds…Burley types are generally for cigarettes. “Virginia Gold” is one of the easiest to grow, in that as soon as the leaves dry, they can be smoked. What is termed a “field smoke” is when you go out one day, find an old dried leaf hanging on the stalk, roll it and light it up on the spot to have a taste. With cigar-type tobacco, you generally can’t do this without getting a smoke that tastes like a dried up cows bunghole (not that I’ve ever smoked a dried up cows bunghole, but it’s unpleasant).
I probably won’t grow cigar tobacco again, because the easy part is growing it. The hard part is harvesting it at the right time, drying it properly (it can’t dry too fast or too slow), and then curing it ( a process of slow decomposition). Some bright sonofaguns have built homemade contraptions to cure their cigar tobacco in, providing artificial heat and moisture to super-accelerate the curing process. For cigarettes, however, you mostly just need to dry the leaf before smoking it, and remove the time-intensive curing process for the cigar smokers. It’ll taste better if you cure, but you can flavor your tobacco afterwards to make it taste more like the Menthol’s you’re used to. I’ve considered growing again, but next time I’d buy Virginia Gold and just sell the dried product to some “roll it your own” friends and leave the cigars to the professionals.
People have been trying all sorts of “do it at home” projects over the years. This is one project that isn’t going to be sold to you at your local Wal-Mart store or late-night infomercial. Tobacco helped build this country to what it is today, and for all those Doomsday Preppers out there, the intrinsic value of tobacco cannot be overstated. If it’s not part of your post-apocalypse plans, you’re missing out on “money growing on stalks”. If you simply want to sound like a backwards hillbilly at your next office party and proudly announce “I’m growin’ tobaccy!”, this little project is sure to turn heads in your general direction.
So “Get American” and grow some tobacco!