Tobacco – a Plant of Pleasure and Controversy

Published on May 3rd, 2010 08:56

As a plant tobacco is classified into Solanaceae family of flowering plants together with potato, eggplant, tomato and pepper. Tobacco can be cultivated in a broad variety of climatic conditions from 40° Southern to 50° Northern latitude.

Tobacco is cultivated economically in more than 100 countries. China is the largest tobacco-growing nation, followed by the United States and Brazil. Usually tobacco gives a more revenues than other crops. It even benefits other crops seeded after tobacco in the same area.


Types of tobacco. Burley in the process of air-curing burley tobacco becomes brown in color with almost no sugar. This type of tobacco requires heavy soils and more fertilizers than other types. Burley is cultivated in USA, Uganda, Brazil and Uganda. Burley tobacco makes up the biggest part of famous American blend used in the majority of modern cigarettes.

Virginia received its name after US state of Virginia where this type of tobacco was grown first. It is cured by flue after which the leaves become yellowish-orange. Virginia is grown in Georgia and Virginia (USA), Zimbabwe and Paraguay.

Oriental is a sun-cured tobacco with a highly aromatic flavor. It is usually grown in Turkey, Greece and Macedonia. Though currently oriental tobacco is mostly used in pipe tobacco, still many popular cigarette brands contain Turkish tobacco.

Tobacco Cultivation and Curing. Tobacco cultivation requires great skill and effort, as tobacco seeds are very diminutive. Farmers nurture seeds in special seedbeds for two months, after which, they plant them to the ordinary field. After 8-10 weeks the flowers and some leaves are cut, so that the remaining leaves grow better. During all the process of growing tobacco plants have to be nourished and checked for pests.

Harvest. While in industrialized countries, such as the USA and Brazil tobacco is harvested by machinery, in other countries, especially African ones, farmers harvest their crop manually. The process of harvesting lasts for 2-4 for months during which leaves are taken off while they ripen. Tobacco plants give a very rich crop, even from a small area of land.

Curing. Curing is a painstaking process needed to obtain the particular color, texture, flavor and other features of a particular type of tobacco. During the process of curing the color of leaves is turning to yellow, orange or brown.

There are four major techniques of curing tobacco:

Flue-Curing: tobacco is hung in curing barns, which have flues, resembling radiators and connected to the heating system. The process of flue-curing takes about a week and gives tobacco for cigarette with medium to high levels of nicotine.

Air-Curing: tobacco is hung in ventilated and unheated barns until it dries out naturally. The process of air-curing lasts for 4-8 weeks. Air-cured tobacco is brown in color, contains almost no sugar and gives cigarettes a strong and sweet flavor.

Sun-Curing: the easiest method of curing commonly used in Turkey and Balkan countries. Durin sun-curing tobacco leaves are hung to dry in the sun without any cover during up to a month. Sun-cured tobacco has low levels of nicotine and sugar.

Fire-Curing: tobacco is hung in barns where fires are permanently smoldering to dry the tobacco leaves. Fire-cured tobacco is used in pipe and loose tobacco.

By Kevin Lawson, Staff Writer. Copyright © 2010 All rights reserved.

Related tags: tobacco plant | smoking | chewing | tobacco consumption | tobacco

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