From Seed to Seedling
The beginning of every leaf of tobacco used to create a cigar is the seed. The tobacco seed is small – a handful of seeds is enough to plant acres and a sack of seeds will last years. Its quality and construction is just as, if not more, important than every other step in the process. Most tobacco growers harvest seeds from the previous year’s tobacco harvest, selecting seeds from the fullest plants.
One of biggest factors in creating a respectable blend is consistency, and consistency begins with the seeds selected. In order to manufacture a blend that is consistent from batch to batch, year to year, the same seed must be used. Therefore, selection of the proper seed from the proper plant and using seeds from the same harvesting year is extremely important to ensure production of a batch of cigars that is consistent with the last batch.
Tobacco seeds are often selected from harvests in one country and grown in another. These are most often Cuban seeds grown outside of Cuba. Why, you ask, are Cuban seeds better than other seeds? According to A.J. Fernandez, Cuban seeds are above all others because Cuban tobacco farmers have invested more money and more time into researching and developing the perfect tobacco seed than any other group of farmers in the world. In fact, most of the seeds used today have roots in Cuba thanks to a lineage that began with seeds smuggled from the country.
According to Fernandez, the best time for planting in Esteli, Nicaragua is November. When it comes to planting, the seeds are initially scattered onto the surface of the soil in seed beds where they will begin their growth process. The seeds are scattered as their germination is activated by light. After about 60 days of growth, the seedlings will be a few inches tall and their largest leaves will be a few inches long. At this point, the seedlings will be dug up and replanted in a fresh field.
From Seedling to Plant
Unfortunately, during the process of transplanting the seedlings, some of the plants do not survive the move. This, in essence, weeds out the weak plants (no pun intended). The surviving plants, however, are planted in the field proper, ready to develop into a full plant. Many fields are planted by hand, but some are planted through the use of a transplanter. During the transplanting process, the seedlings are heavily doused with water and fertilized. Once planted, it takes approximately two months for the seedling to mature into a full plant.
Learn more about "The Life of a Cigar" and Tobacco Harvesting