THOUSANDS OF SEEDS
Tobacco seeds are tiny, very tiny. One flower has 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 small plants for transplanting. Nowadays, the grower can buy trays with alveoli prepared with soil and one single seed, coated with nutrients.
DOZENS OF LEAVES
A 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 if the tobacco plants are topped or not, the grower is going to pick between 10 and 16 leaves.
A FEW FEET
If not topped, the most common grown tobacco plants can grow up to 8 or 9 feet. 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.
THE HIGHER YOU GET
When going up from the foot to the tip of a tobacco plant, leaves become darker, thicker and fuller. Therefore, to know the origin of the tobacco is not enough to guess how the cigar is going to taste. The stalk positions of the leaves are essential to the taste!
The tobacco plant belongs to the family of Solanacees (same as potatoes and tomatoes), and to the genus of Nicotiana. Grown tobaccos 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.
NOT ONLY FOR SMOKING
Besides the well known uses of tobacco such as using for snuff, smoking, or chewing, there are other uses as well. Some types are used as decorative plants (Petunias). Nicotine extracts are used in pharmacology and perfumery. Nicotine was also used to fatten pigs! Tobacco plants are often used in genetical and botanical fundamental research because it is a fast growing plant allowing several generations per year.