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Whole Leaf Tobacco

My grow blog in hindsight......

Bex

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#1
Greetings, fellow travelers. And sorry, I never did a grow blog this year (although I should have, as this has been my best year ever). A quick recap:
This year, I grew LV and burley, which germinated on February 18. They grew under a plant light in the house, were hardened off outside on April 7, and repotted and left in the little greenhouse on April 18. Over the course of May 6-May 17, I transplanted 27 LV and 27 burley up into the rather weather beaten tunnel......

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Sorry about the thumbnails - my internet here is too slow to upload the full photo, and every time I click on ‘full image’, everything disappears.....but hopefully you’ll get the idea.....I was still growing my plants in upside down pots to try to compensate for the poor soil conditions. Anyway, I planted LV on one side, and burley on the other, as in the past I lost track of what was where.

May was a horrible month, so I looked forward to another summer of really poor Irish weather. And then......we had the best summer I’ve had since I moved here 21 years ago. The weather was calm and sunny. We had no rain for 40 days (so dry that I was actually rationing the water in the house, and using the cisterns I have outside that collect rainwater during the year). The plants were nothing short of magnificent, particularly the burley:

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By the end of July, the bottom leaves of the burley were already starting to yellow:

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The LV didn’t look so bad either. I actually began flue curing on July 4th.

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I’m an old hand at flue curing now - thanks to the guys on this forum. It’s basically a ‘set and forget’ kind of technique. I’ve kept a diary from all the years I’ve been doing this, and have to laugh at my first year (2014) when I was running up to the shed where my flue curing chamber is, about every 15 minutes, and panicking.

My LV came out fairly nicely:

B9B20629-4B4E-4BAE-A269-C03634707D76.jpeg

However, my crop was only about 400 leaves this year - I was hoping for more.....

So, now I’m concentrating on my burley. I’ve started priming the yellow leaf from the plants, and hanging them in the shed:

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The weather, sadly, has begun to change here now - we’ve had rain every day in August, and the temperatures are a lot cooler - maybe 60F during the day. While the shed is somewhat sheltered, last year (my second attempt at burley - the first year, the shed roof blew off...LOL) the leaf was attacked by mold during the course of the autumn. I don’t want this to happen this year, and am ‘flying by the seat of my pants’ on this one. When the leaf is brown, I’m taking it into the house - like the leaf hanging all the way on the left:

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The leaf is incredibly sticky - so much so that my fingers stick together when handling it. Anyway, here is my plan......

Now that my chamber is (sadly) finished with the LV, I’m going to try to do the ‘air cure’ of the burley in the chamber. I don’t think I’ll get more than perhaps another month, if that, from hanging in the shed. I plan to use the chamber as a ‘controlled environment’, setting the temperature between 65-90F (which will be easy with the digital thermostat), and attempting to control the humidity between 65-70%, by using the crockpot (with the lid mostly on) and adding water to the pot when needed. Fingers crossed that this works.

The outlets to buy whole leaf over here have pretty much dried up. The one source that I have left here, while their LV is fine, their burley is way too ‘cigar-like’ for me. My blend is about 65% burley to 35% LV, so the taste of the burley is important (the LV, to me at least, is more like filler than anything else). So the success of my burley is somewhat important, if I really plan to try to be self-sufficient. Hopefully.

By the way, I also have a small crop of Amersfoort, growing outside. I did a fast flue cure run on some of it - I haven’t tried smoking it to see what it’s like. I’ll also try air curing this in the chamber, as well.

So, there you have it in a nutshell....!!! A poor excuse for a ‘grow blog’, and I really do miss posting here on the forum. And if anyone has any suggestions or advice for my burley plan......
 

skychaser

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#2
Good to jear from you Bex. LV = Light Virginian? Your leaf looks awesome. Glad to hear you had a good year. It's funny to think back on that first year of growing. We all did things that seem silly now. I have a list! lol
 

Bex

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#3
Lemon Virginia, I think...LOL. Yes, I was a real ‘newbie’ here for a few years. I guess at one point or another, everyone (except maybe Stogie) was in the same position....:)
 

CobGuy

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#4
Very nice! No worries about the thumbnails as they expand when you click on them.

Congrats and enjoy the fruits (smokes) of your labor. :)

~Darin
 

Charly

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#6
I am happy you had a good year !
Congratulations for your flue cured leaves, they look gorgeous !

If you can control the temperature and humidity, you will do some fine air cured burley ;)
 

Bex

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#8
My flue curing is finished for the year, and I’ve just about primed all the burley leaf worth priming. Being a cheap SOB, I’m thinking about ‘stalk curing’ the smaller leaves on the upper parts of the burley plants, just as an experiment. The weather here has turned cooler and rainy. While I’m somewhat ‘confident’ in my flue curing now (and I must say, it’s funny to read my tobacco diary from 3 or 4 years ago, where I was running up to the shed every 15 minutes), burley is a new experiment for me. Last year, much of my burley just dried green - I had been thinking about using the flue curing chamber as an air curing chamber, but from what I’m reading on the forum, perhaps all is going well with my burley. I started priming on August 5 - much of the leaf had already begun to yellow on the plant. When the leaf was hanging for about a month (a light brown, starting to dry) I took it into the house to thoroughly dry. I’m afraid of mold. I’ve been doing this in stages, as my leaf was primed in stages.

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Once it’s dry in the (heated) kitchen, I’m storing it in a cardboard box in my (unseated) living room. The burley softens up a bit in the cardboard box. I was thinking about kilning it, but this is something I’ve never done before.

But, being really impatient, I decided to try a cigarette of my own tobacco - 1/3 or so Virginia, and 2/3 burley. And guess what? It tasted like pure shite....LOL. Anyway, I seem to be getting better results with my burley this year than last - at least the color is nice. I’m hoping that as it ages, it will improve. Fingers crossed.
 

deluxestogie

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#9
Here in the south eastern US, burley is usually stalk-cured--cut when most of the leaf has already yellowed. It usually tastes horrible until about Thanksgiving (late November), and doesn't get really nice from aging until about May of the following year (about 9 months of curing). At that point, when the warmer weather has accelerated additional aging, it is noticeably improved. But if it is kilned for a month after the end of that first November (or allowed to age another year), you get truly excellent burley.

I'm not sure where the name, burley, came from. In my mind, I picture an over-muscled brute. He needs time to calm down, and mellow. But with age (or kilning) burley is a delicious and uniquely flavored tobacco. In US cigarette blends, it is often blended at about 30-40%, with ~50% flue-cured and ~10% Oriental. Any higher burley ratio, and you've got a pretty stiff smoke.

Do realize that you are likely the most knowledgeable tobacco expert in all of Ireland! Bravo!

Bob
 

Bex

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#10
Thanks for the info! Yep, it’s kind of strange how ‘confident’ I feel now with my flue curing. It’s been an interesting and fun journey.....”Once upon a time, there was a cozy can...”. Ah, yes, that’s pretty much what started this all, along with the kind help of this forum...I now am able to produce Virginia similar to anything that I can buy. Of course, this summer has been an unusual one - it will be interesting to see if I’m able to duplicate the great results this year, if next summer reverts back to the usual, unpleasant Irish weather.
So, burley, and as usual, a few more questions. I see that in your response above, ‘after the end of that first November’ is emphasize. Does the burley need to be hanging in the shed until that time (which I fear may be impossible here due to the humidity). Or will having the burley stored in the cardboard box have the same effect. Initially I was going to try a suggestion from DGBama from a few years ago - using the flue curing chamber as an ‘artificial environment’ and ‘air curing’ the burley in there, after the Virginia curing was finished. But the burley began to yellow on the stalk, so I just started priming and hanging it. It didn’t take long for it to turn brown - unlike past years where it continued to remain green. I think that perhaps this is because I germinated earlier this year, as well as having about 6 weeks or so of constant sun and warm weather. (It’s been 23 years since this last occurred here - people still talk about the summer of 1995....). It will be interesting to see, next year, if my ‘experience’ from this year makes me more, um, serene, about burley.
So, other than learning about the mystery of what happens ‘after the end of that first November’, I will be patient, put my burley away, and wait......:)
 

deluxestogie

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#11
I can't answer your burley question directly. Something to consider is that most burley varieties exhibit a chlorophyll metabolism peculiarity that throws the events of color-curing out of synchrony. While most other varieties clear the chlorophyll (turn yellow then brown) over the same time span during which the leaf's carbohydrates and proteins are broken down and otherwise altered, the burley "defect" causes them to lose their chlorophyll more rapidly than they complete the carb/protein breakdown. So it pays to keep the leaf in color-curing conditions for at least a few weeks beyond the point when they first begin to look nice.

I realize that's fairly vague, but it's about as precise as I can get on the timing. When I kiln other varieties, I'm comfortable putting them into the kiln as soon as they have color-cured. With burley, I wait at least until after Thanksgiving, before considering kilning.

Bob
 

Bex

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#12
Ah, ok, thanks. I am taking the leaf down out of the shed when it’s been brown for a few weeks. I’m afraid of the mold situation. So I dry it hanging in the kitchen (heated) and then put it into the living room (unseated) where it becomes supple again. It won’t be as damp in the living room as it would be hanging outside in a shed that’s ventilated with outside (humid) air. Hopefully this will work out ok. I’ll test it around Thanksgiving and then see what I find. Thanks for the info - I’m a ‘burley newbie’, so I’ll take all the info on this that I can.....
 

Alpine

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#13
Here’s my (0,02€ since you’re in EU) experience with burley: kiln it, then leave it alone for a few months.
I harvested my first crop of burley last year, and it was ripe, very ripe, I would say it was unbelievably ripe, the ripest tobacco I’ve ever harvested. After a couple of weeks hanging, it showed the nicest colour I was able to obtain with other strains in months of curing. My thought: with such a beautiful baccy, a couple of weeks in the kiln will be more than enough. No, not so. I added a couple weeks more... still not good. Smokeable (is it a word?) but not good. So I added another two weeks of kilning... almost good, but not what I expected. Disgusted (hey, six weeks in the kiln!) I hung it in the attic for a few months and decided to never grow burley again. I thought the soil, or the weather or who knows what wasn’t suited to grow burley on the Alps. Last week I decided to shred a couple of leaves and try again, just to be sure, before throwing all my burley in the garbage can.
I will grow burley next year, knowing that it grows fast, cures fast but... ages slow.

Pier
 

Bex

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#14
Thank you for your insight - yes, I will learn to be very patient with the burley! Hopefully, by this time next year, my aged crop from this year will have made it all worthwhile. I’m looking forward to possibly being self sufficient...you never know...;)
 

Bex

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#16
Ah, thanks for your post.......still windy as all get out here - the winds are about 40mph, with higher gusts. I’m looking at the lawn furniture strewn about in the field in front of the house at the moment. The rain has stopped for a while, but is supposed to come back again later. My little house is built like a fortress, with the broad side of the house facing the prevailing wind, so when I’m inside, I barely know what’s going on outside (all the houses here are built with block, rather than timber frame). My only ‘problem’ - keeping warm!! I don’t have central heat, so use a range (like an Aga kind of thing) to keep warm - but with this wind, everything is sucked up the chimney in minutes. However, living about 100 yards from the North Atlantic, this kind of weather has become almost second nature to me. And, as importantly, my crummy tunnel hit a level of ‘destruction’ some years ago, and has remained at the level in extreme weather, for years now. All in all, not so bad. I knew that this storm was coming, so yesterday I harvested the rest of my large burley leaf (ah, foresight!!!), which is now tucked away safe and sound in the shed. So, no anxiety....LOL. ;)
 

deluxestogie

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#17
Good to hear. I guess this storm was that cute, swirly thing on the fascinating water vapor video from a few days ago. I think they are more fun when confined to a computer screen.

Bob
 

Bex

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#18
When I first moved here (by myself, having come from the quiet suburbs of Long Island) the sound of wind in the chimneys was a bit disconcerting - it sounded like waves of water splashing over the top of the house. Now I find it comforting. I have great faith in this little house - my second year here, we had the ‘St. Stephen’s Day storm’ - winds with gusts of 100mph, a blackout, etc., and it happened at night. In situations like that, yes, far nicer when confined on a computer screen.....
 

Bex

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#19
My season is over. Kind of. All my burley has been hung, cured a lovely shad of brown, and now awaits ‘Thanksgiving’ or later..... It is laying, pretty much in case, hopefully aging a bit. My Virginia is finished. This is the third year I’ve tried to grow/cure burley, and possibly due to early germination and the good summer we had, it just might have been successful. Sadly, I seem more adept at Virginia, even though I don’t like it as a standalone tobacco. But my experimentation isn’t over - the weather has turned cooler and rainy, so I harvested the Amersfoort I had growing outside - the shed isn’t really equipped to heat and ventilate, etc., but my flue curing chamber is. So, I’ve decided to experiment with using that as an ‘artificial environment’. I’m keeping the humidity at around 65-70%, and the temp at around 75-80F. The leaf is slowly turning brown. I have no idea what Amersfoort tastes like, but my efforts here are getting more and more important. The company that I used to get my leaf from went out of business last year, due to the new UK regulations. Thanks to someone on this forum, I found a German supplier, and although this source is still available, what I receive is always an adventure. Maybe it’s me, but my ‘blend’ is never the same from one shipment to the next - I’ve just spent about 3 hours in the kitchen this evening, trying to tweak what I’ve shred into something that I enjoy. So far, I’ve not been successful. Of course, there’s no guarantee that what I grow myself will be any better. But I read through the forum, see the excellent product that is available to my American compatriots, and feel very sorry for myself....:(. Boo hoo.
 

deluxestogie

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#20
Perhaps you are gaining insight into why all the storied pipe blends from England, Scotland and Ireland are now going belly-up, ever since subcontracting their production to "European" (German and Danish) manufacturers. German and Danish tobacco people have peculiar notions of consistency and "enhancement".

While WLT's bright-cured Virginia is better than my own, my flue-cured Virginia is damn good. I have the impression that you too have mastered the flue-curing process. Now, it's just a matter of your finding the right blend.

Bob
 
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