Leg Iron has been talking about processing his baccy plant leaves here:
Leggy, being a microbiologist, enlightens us about the difference between ‘curing’ leaves in the air (aerobic) and ‘fermenting’ them (anaerobic). The first method involves oxygen, whereas the second doesn’t. I can illustrate by showing these media:
That is a pic from Iran of tobacco plants hung under a canopy to air-cure (Note what seems to be snow on the ground!)
That is a video of curing tobacco for cigars. Not only are the leaves hung, but also they also fermented in stacks.
For those who would like to process leaves for cigars, this presentation might be useful (H/T J Brown):
Note that the leaves being used have already been air-cured.
Discussion about these methods have been going on both here and at Leg Iron’s place. Shame upon me for not observing the strict difference between ‘curing’ and ‘fermenting’. Curing for cigarettes does not require fermenting.
HOWEVER, our climate does not lend itself to air-curing. Imagine hanging leaves outside in the rain! A sure recipe for mould, I should imagine. And yet I know of people who use outdoor sheds. They hang the leaves and use heaters and humidifiers. I should say here that I really think that that is great! Would that I had the space to grow enough plants to make that worthwhile! Having said that, it can be done in curing chambers and kilns on a smaller scale. The “Tobacco Growing etc” essay has links to both of those possibilities.
The methods outlined in the “Tobacco Growing etc” essay were devised using pieces of information gleaned here and there from the internet, plus the very great contribution of Rose (re towelling). One piece, the wadding process, was said by the author of the video to be about tobacco, but I have become convinced since that it was about cannabis! The reason is that, a) In retrospect, the leaves that he was using were far too small, and, b) that the video subsequently disappeared. I saw a similar one from Australia. I don’t know if it still exists, but in that video also, the leaves were far too small. Note that, in both cases, no pics were shown of tobacco plants growing.
That is as maybe, but what was useful to me was the wadding process. It may well be that the process, when used for cannabis, is intended to enrich the product. I do not know. All I can say is that worked for me. The baccy was ‘enriched’ – it became very sweet and strong – too sweet and strong to be used on its own. But that did not matter, since its principle value is in, a) replacing bought stuff, and, b) in changing the taste of fags.
The result of these cogitations is that I shall certainly continue with the towelling method of yellowing the leaves. The heated propagator has been very beneficial in that the process produces much more consistency in the yellowing. That is, there is much less premature, sticky browning. I am getting nicely yellowed leaves. But have they ‘cured’? That is, have the starches in the leaves become sugars? Very possibly, they have not. Very possibly, what has happened is that the chlorophyll (the green colour) has been removed, but not much else, apart, perhaps, from some other compounds associated with the chlorophyll. But what seems to be true is that towelling (in the propagator) produces nicely yellowed leaves.
Thereafter, it is up to the individual to decide how to proceed. The yellowed leaves are still very susceptible to mould. Three methods have been suggested:
1. Hang the leaves inside in a sunny, window position. One could imagine them hanging from a curtain rail.
2. Continue to hold the yellow leaves inside a towel. They will gradually go brown. I have little doubt, by experiments, that they ‘cure’, since the characteristic smell is there.
3. Cause them to ‘ferment’ by wadding. That ‘cure’ is more intense, but a lot depends upon the starches present in the leaves. Some have more starch, some have less. Tobacco Companies pick only the most perfect leaves for their purposes. They can afford to - we have to use what we manage to grow. It is interesting to observe that, if we process what we grow a few leaves at a time, and ‘cure’ the stuff as we go along, then we can mix the whole lot up at the end of the growing season and then let it mature for a month or so, and produce a tobacco which has qualities superior to the banal stuff in cigs. We can then mix it with the banal stuff and enjoy the superior product.
I use every scrap of leaf that I produce. The reason is that IT IS MINE! The seedlings and the plantlets are MY BABIES! Have I become obsessed? You could say that, but this hobby has replaced my golfing hobby, with which I was equally obsessed. But could I ever have replicated the achievements of my golfing heroes? Absolutely not! But I accepted the challenges and tried my best to beat them. In the same way, I accept the challenges of growing the plants (my babies!) and accepting gratefully the produce from them in due course – good or bad, plentiful or meagre.
That is the important thing, you see. You are not a member of ‘The Tobacco Growers Assn’ or a ‘Tobacco Manufacturer’. You are just a person who has a hobby.