Ray French, author of How to Grow Your Own Tobacco, took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to talk with us a bit further about tobacco, specifically the tobacco that is used in manufacturing cigars. Here are a few more of his thoughts on tobacco:
Describe a leaf reserved for the cigar wrapper. You mentioned it has to be perfect:
A cigar grade leaf has to be harvested when ripe with no puncture wounds or holes from insects or handling. The best will tend to come from the upper part of the plants – and are usually the healthiest in terms of color. To put it frankly – they’re the best looking leaves on the plant. Thin veins are also a desirable characteristic.
After the drying and curing process is complete, you will select the best leaves to be used as wrappers. Again, these are leaves without holes. Another standout characteristic: these leaves have flexibility. Once you identify leaves that will make wrappers, store them a little on the moist side. Professional cigar makers store in a special sealed tin to maintain flexibility right up until they are needed.
Lizard Tail Oronoco: did you grow this variety of tobacco? How does it compare to other types? Why does it make the best cigars?
Yes I did grow it. It has a longer and narrower leaf than other varieties. One noticeable difference – the leaf was much thicker than any other type I grew. It is known for producing strong flavors. I actually blend with other types.
Describe your control standards during the drying and curing process (cigar grade).
During the initial drying process I tried to harvest leaves when they were ready, but the window of opportunity may only be a few days. So, watch closely! Remember – throughout the drying process keep the environment dry enough to turn the leaves yellow within a few days. If the environment is too humid, the leaves will mildew. I used several drying methods, but draped over an indoor clothesline was the easiest.
Another note: do not let the leaves dry all the way to powder. Moisten them carefully by either increasing the humidity or misting them a bit with distilled water. Once they are flexible you can then pack them flat and apply pressure, or store them hanging in a fairly humid environment.
What is your easiest curing recommendation (cigar grade)?
Depending on the quantity, either in a vacuum sealed bag or in bales wrapped in burlap and bound under pressure.
What types of tobacco make the best cigar grade?
In my opinion, the Virginia Gold and Havana Gold both made nice cigars as filler, binder, and wrapper.
Break down your do’s and don’ts in growing cigar grade tobacco.
Do a good job preparing the soil. Do check on your crop every day. Don’t keep it so wet it mildews.
How does it differ from cigarette tobacco?
Typically the left over pieces and bits of scrap can be shredded further and turned into cigarettes. The cigar grade tobacco leaves are always the highest quality harvested, dried, cured and stored correctly. If I let some get too dry or did not moisten correctly to handle, I would toss to the cigarette stash.
We would like to thank Mr. French for taking the time to answer some further questions on tobacco growing, especially when it comes to cigar tobacco. If you would like to find out more about Mr. French’s book please check our post here to read a review and have a chance to win a copy of Mr. French’s work.