I think Dreadful's been at my whisky.
Time to start the harvest to the tune of MC Baccy's 'U Can't Smoke Here'. I am indebted to this tip for hanging the leaves to dry. Although sun-drying might not work here. We don't see that thing too often in these parts. In fact, the biggest laugh I had this week was when some idiot tried the cold-call hard-sell for solar panels.
"What's a 'solar'?"
"It gives you free electricity from the sun."
"The what? The shiny thing in the clouds? I've been wondering what that was for. Is it yours?"
Cold callers are fun - and they're paying for the call so keep them on the line as long as you can.
My plants have been somewhat wind-ravaged but it would have been worse before the neighbours put those big fences up. Perhaps I can induce them to build higher ones. It would have been better if I had used six-foot canes to hold the plants up, but lesson learned. I didn't expect them to do so well this far north.
I've already pulled a batch of leaves and strung them up to dry. That's why Dreadful looks a bit sparse around the bottom. There were a lot of slug-ravaged ones and I've left most of those on. If I take them off, the little slimy gits will just climb higher to get their freebies. The slugs, I mean. This isn't a post about politics.
Lately, we are to believe that tobacco is full of arsenic and polonium. There's none in mine. Arsenic and polonium are elements, and plants have not yet developed the technology to create elements. They've already invented tobacco and alcohol and many other things, so they probably feel they've done more than we have anyway. They're leaving the elemental chemistry to us.
If I had a plant that could turn one element into another I'd be feeding it lead and crossing my fingers.
The only places a plant can get any chemical element is the soil, the water and the air. Look at the size of Dreadful up there. If she had absorbed enough of a toxic element to have detectable amounts in her leaves then either the soil, the rain or the air contains so much of it that I, and everyone around me, is already dead. So are all the plants.
Therefore, if a tobacco plant has absorbed enough of any toxic element to pose a risk to those smoking a little bit of one leaf (some of those leaves are at least five smokes' worth, and further south they get much bigger) then that plant cannot have grown at all. So no, I am not in the least concerned by scare stories of polonium and arsenic. They are self-evident nonsense. Yet the drones believe it and if you imagine for a moment that I won't tell them those leaves are radioactive, then you haven't been here before. I still have a little pot of glow-in-the-dark paint from the time I painted the grouting in the kitchen tiles to play 'Hellraiser' with a gullible idiot. Yes, I have a fake 'Hellraiser' box here too. I told him he'd solved it and turned off the lights.
Growing the plants turned out to be easy after a couple of initial errors. I put out the first ones too soon and the slugs minced them. The ones I later put straight into the rubbish soil I have are still alive, but piddling little things.
The best results were with those potted on in the greenhouse until they filled six-inch pots, then put into buckets of decent compost (£3 for 50 litres by the time I needed it, hardly an expensive affair). The buckets had holes in the bottom and stood in cat-litter trays full of water to keep the slugs out. Buckets and trays were from the pound shop so each cost, somewhat predictably, a pound.
The plants grow themselves. Unfortunately they will not dry and cure themselves so now begins the hard part. As far as I can determine, the leaves should feel like thin leather, not dried to a crisp like 'normal' leaves. Then there are several options to choose from.
I could take the Bulgarian advice (in Email) and blanch them in boiling water, then re-dry them. That's the fastest option so one batch will go that way. I have seen options to air-cure, seal in jars or bags, stack and moisten, roll into pods and pour in rum or other spirits, and more. I probably won't have enough to try them all. I expect to get some or maybe even all of them wrong, it is a first attempt after all. In the end, maybe I'll end up with a little bit of something smokeable but every error along the way is a pointer for what to do next year. Remember, the entire experiment has cost not much more than ten worthless British pounds. One or two ounces of smokeable tobacco at the end of this and I break even.
That's for the future. For now I have to concentrate on stage two, drying. In this sometimes warm and always damp climate, moulds are a big problem and I could potentially lose the lot to a fungus. Therefore there will be several drying locations - house, garage, shed and greenhouse. Hopefully the moulds won't get them all. There's only one way to find out and it has cost nothing more from the plant-in-buckets stage.
Worth the effort? Certainly. If I can smoke one single cigarette/cigar/pipe bowl made of tobacco I grew with my own nicotine-stained cancer-spreading fingers, it's all been worth it.
If it doesn't work, I will have seeds and buckets and trays all ready to try again next year so the second attempt will cost less. Plus I'll have one year's experience of buggering it up.
Even if it does fail, the plants are pretty and fun to scare people with. The slug-munched ones will get a coat of paint.