Cigars: The Tobacco Plant

NicotianaThe tobacco plant belongs to the family of Solanacea (same as potatoes and tomatoes), and to the genus of Nicotiana. Tobaccos grown for smoking products are classified in the subgenus Nicotiana Tabacum, species Nicotiana Tabacum L. But after decades of gene tampering and uncontrolled hybridations, it is impossible to know exactly what is what! After much research conducted during the 20th century, it seems that all grown tobaccos are coming from 4 original subspecies : Havanensis, Brasiliensis, Virginica and Purpurea.Tobacco SeedsTobacco seeds are tiny, very tiny. One flower gives about 3000 seeds. Depending on the variety, you can count between 10,000 and 20,000 seeds per gram, around half a million per ounce. Tobacco cannot be planted directly in the field. The grower has to set seedbeds first, to take care of them and to select the resulting small plants for transplanting. Nowadays, the grower can buy trays with alveoli prepared with soil and one single seed, coated with nutrients.Leaves Per PlantA tobacco plant produces between 20 and 30 leaves, and even more if buds are not removed. They are not all usable. According to the process in the field, mainly depending on whether the tobacco plants are topped or not, the grower is going to pick between 10 and 16 leaves.How High Do They Grow?If not topped, the most common grown tobacco plants can grow up to 8 or 9 feet tall. When shade grown and irrigated, the development is fast and the stalk is weak. Each plant has to be propped up to keep it straight up. On the contrary, some oriental types, with very small leaves, do not grow over 3 feet.Stalk PositionWhen going up from the foot to the tip of a tobacco plant, leaves become darker, thicker and fuller. Therefore, knowing the origin of the tobacco is not enough to guess how the cigar is going to smoke. The stalk positions of the leaves are the determinants for the taste…Tobacco UsesSmoking, chewing and snuffing are the main ways to consume tobacco. Some types of tobaccos are used as decorative plants (Petunias). Nicotine extracts are used in pharmacology and perfumery. Nicotine was also used to fatten pigs but I am not sure it is still permitted. The tobacco plant is good material for genetic and botanical fundamental research because it is a fast growing plant allowing several generations per year.

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