Friday, May 22, 2020

More Pondering On Tobacco Fermentation

Stung by my recent epic failure with my tobacco crop when mold wiped it out in the final stage, fermentation, I've been watching videos showing how the large growers ferment the stuff. Dig this one.

All a home grower is doing at the end is replicating this process. Note that the barn is well-ventilated. Air movement is key to avoiding mold.

But notice something else: the tobacco fermentation is happening because the leaves at the bottom are being pressed together by the weight of the leaves on the top. Having said that, the leaves on the bottom have no idea that the pressure is coming from other tobacco leaves.

What if you piled the cured leaves together and held them down with a coarsely-woven cloth like burlap? You could pile the leaves on a table, drape a square of burlap over them and tie weights to the corners of the burlap square. You'd get air movement, pressure and ... fermentation?

I see two drawbacks to this experiment. The first is unavoidable and that is the cycle time on the thing is several months. The tobacco has to be grown from seed, harvested, cured and then fermented. If I'm going to do it, I need to start now, as in today.

The second is that the barn in the video is undoubtedly in a humid locale. I'm in San Diego where we'll get the hot days, but it will be a dry heat. I'm not sure how to solve that one and retain the air movement crucial to avoiding a recurrence of the mold.

There's a huge advantage to this method, however. The fermentation device will need almost no construction and won't require a heat source. The latter would be a fire hazard and in San Diego, fires are catastrophic, not just for you, but for everyone in your neighborhood.

Hmm. Well, it looks like I better get started with the seeds today. This time, I'm only going to plant one kind, the Virginians. That will simplify a lot of things. Growing the plants will give me two months to solve the humidity problem. I will also be a lot more sciencey and take measurements and make science noises as I grow them. Charts, graphs, tables, equations, all of that science stuff will be produced.

Unless I get bored and just turn on my Confederate Railroad playlist and eat barbecue while I watch my tobacco grow. If that happens, I'll just grow the darn things, cure them and then try my fermentation experiment.

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