Experimental time

I have 500g of tobacco leaf donated for experimental purposes. Poundland currently don’t have the zip-lock bags I hoped to use but there are other shops to try.

Anyway, no experiment should start without a plan. This is what I plan – if you have any suggestions, there is still time to add or delete bits.

Store the leaf shredded or whole? I decided on whole because once it’s shredded it’s in danger of a duty demand. Whole leaf is safer for bulk storage.

There will be no anaerobic jar involved this time. This experiment has to be repeatable by anyone using easily available (and cheap) components. I have some old glass jam jars that might be of use. Air can’t diffuse through glass so once sealed they should be okay. You can boost the CO2 levels in the jars with a teaspoon of baking soda in a little water. It’s not anaerobic but it should be enough to keep the moulds quiet.

I’m not putting glass jars in the freezer, that’s asking for trouble and besides, they’ll be bulky. Those will be room temperature storage – well, in the garage, hardly a bearable room temperature. The freezer will be zip-lock bags only.

So far then, I have

Storage in jam jars with a little added whisky, brandy or rum. Shake well to coat the leaves and that should stop moulds. You can use vodka if you like it, I don’t. The leaves I did this to two years ago still look mould-free so I’ll try it again.

Storage in jam jars with a small container of water, add baking soda to the water and close it quick. The risk here is that the container of water might tip over, so it’ll have to be done carefully.

Storage in zip-lock bags with the air squeezed out, room temperature.

Storage in zip-lock bags as above, but frozen.

I’ll have to make lots of small batches so I can take some out at intervals to test it. If it’s in one big container I’d have to open the container and let air in. Then the mould might take hold! I’ll divide the 500g by the number of experiments and number of time intervals between testing.

If I have four experiments then that’s 125g per experiment, so 25g per sample would give five time intervals. I don’t need a zero time because I’ve been testing that for ages! I also don’t need a control (leaves lying around untreated) because I already know they’ll go mouldy or dry out.

The only real risks in storage are mould or the leaves drying out completely and crumbling. Aged tobacco actually improves, as Rose pointed out. So all I’m trying to do is avoid drying and mould.

The ideal result would be either the jars or the room temperature bags. If you don’t need to fill your freezer with leaves that would be a good thing, especially if you have a spouse who isn’t likely to approve! The booze-treated ones are not going to be good for those who don’t like spirits and beer just won’t cut it on the mould suppression. I really should open one of those old brandy/whisky jars and try it but I’m fascinated to see how long they’ll last.

Right, so that’s the outline of the plan. I will hunt down the very cheap equipment Thursday and Friday because I only have three-hour shifts those days and the shops are mostly still open when I finish. Hopefully we will have a new staff member soon (a pretty one this time – fingers crossed) and I can resume both the days off and the job search. I’m not going to leave Boss on her own because she’s been a very good boss.

Suggestions? What have I missed, or where have I been overthinking?


35 thoughts on “Experimental time

  1. This came up on search engine as possibly interesting. It’s a patent search that found someone using citrus and making a fog out of it using PG and that was enough to suppress molds. Maybe citrus skins by themselves, locked in a bag or jar with tobacco leaves, plus the addition of baking soda to fizz out as much of the oxygen as possible, but using the citrus alongside it, might boost the anti-mold element.

    Here is some info, I just found this online, I do not know anything more than what the information actually states, you would have to research it further.


    The formulation is a mold suppressant which consists of extract from a citrus seed, citrus skin, or other botanical mold suppressant, with the preferable suppressant being made of grapefruit seed extract combined with propylene glycol. The mold suppressant has been formulated to provide for air borne administration, preferably by using a fogging machine, such as a glycol fogger, which may be of the type generally used to apply insecticides, or for special effects in which a “fog” machine is used by entertainers.

    At the site is also links to the actual total patent information in .pdf format along with related articles of similar patented processes/devices.


  2. You might want to invest in a cheap vacuum pump and some zirc fittings for your jars. With a tap and die you can tool the jar lids. I may be wrong about this, but I do not believe anything freezes in a vacuum…I’d be curios to see the result.


  3. I usually store whole leaf totally dry and remoisten before use. Easily done and it keeps perfectly well like that. To remoisten it (“bring it back into case”) I use an old snuff tin with holes punched in the lid and filled with wet cotton wool. That goes in the zip-lock bag. A couple of days later, job done.


  4. left field but what the hell…straw bale walls skinned with cob and lime plaster do not go mouldy cos the hydraulic action of the porous lime plaster constantly draws moisture away from the straw.
    So the point being would a class jam jar with a lime plaster cap keep the leaf dry enough to prevent the moulds getting enough moisture to grow without desiccating the leaf whilst preventing the other moulds from entering said jar?

    Watched a short video of chap who sprays his fruit trees with whey whose members occupy the spaces on the leaves the sooty moulds that afflict apples are rather partial too. Perhaps dairy tobacco is a step too far though.
    Another apple grower has discovered bentonite clay sprayed in suspension over his trees messes with insect mouth parts so effectively they bugger off. Interesting but insects are not the issue!

    How did the Indians do it?


    • How did the Indians do it?

      Harvesting the Plants

      “About harvest time, just before frost came, the rest of the plants were gathered–the stems and leaves, I mean, left after the harvesting of the blossoms. My father attended to this. He took no basket, but fetched the plants in his arms.

      He dried the plants in the lodge near the place where the cache pit lay. For this he took sticks, about fifteen inches long, and thrust them over the beam between two of the exterior supporting posts, so that the sticks pointed a little upwards. On each of these sticks he hung two or three tobacco plants by thrusting the plants, root up, upon the stick, but without tying them.

      When dry, these plants were taken down and put into a bag; or a package was made by folding over them a piece of old tent cover; and the package or bag was stored away in the cache pit.

      When the tobacco plants were quite dry, the leaves readily fell off. Leaves that remained on the plants were smoked, of course; but it was the stems that furnished most of the smoking.”


  5. From experience unless your tobacco leaf is very dry when it goes into the zip lock bags this
    “Storage in zip-lock bags with the air squeezed out, room temperature.”
    won’t work well, at least the leaves I thought were dried and vacuum packed a while back look most unpleasant. Though the second batch of much much drier leaves that I vacuum packed with a cotton pad soaked in whiskey are looking much happier.


  6. Suggestions? What have I missed, or where have I been overthinking?

    Well, on your behalf, I have just checked my aging experiment from 2012.

    Everythings fine in the unsealed large cardboard box I keep in the back bedroom, with loosely packed leaves just dumped in there when they were fully dry. No moulds, no crumbling.

    I just ripped of a bit of leaf and it’s still fairly flexible.

    There are no moulds in the back bedroom so I wouldn’t expect them in the dry tobacco, it’s a sunny room but the box is out of the sun.
    If I had packed them in plastic I’d be constantly checking for condensation, loose, if the air became briefly damp for some reason, the cardboard box would absorb it first then release it back into the room as it dried.

    If I’ve understood the chemistry correctly a dried tobacco leaf should keep well in ordinary air out of the sun and remain slightly flexible because of the oily,waxy content.

    Solanesol, discovered in tobacco leaves in 1956

    Flue-cured Tobacco. I. Isolation of Solanesol, an Unsaturated Alcohol
    R. L. Rowland , P. H. Latimer , J. A. Giles
    J. Am. Chem. Soc., 1956

    Fatty alcohol

    “Solanesol is C45 sesquiterpenoid alcohol abundant in tobacco leaves. It an intermediate of vitamin K2 and coenzyme Q10 and other nutrients.”

    “Rough solanesol is brown and stringy paste matter”

    And cembranoids, what ever they are.

    “The cembranoids are found in the waxy substance on fresh tobacco leaves and show potential for controlling metastic breast and prostate cancers. The plant produces them as a chemical defense to protect itself against insects and harmful microbial infections, El Sayed said.

    El Sayed said the idea originated after examining soft-bodied corals, which also produce cembranoids to guard themselves against predators.”

    Bizarrely, confirmed by Ernest Wynder himself.

    Medicine: Doctors at Work
    Friday, Apr. 21, 1961

    “Dr. Ernest L. Wynder of Manhattan’s Sloan-Kettering Institute has discovered that a nonflammable part of a waxlike chemical in tobacco smoke acts to inhibit substances that can cause cancer.

    The anticancer agent (Wynder once thought that the entire substance caused cancer) is also present in auto fumes, where it seems to block cancer-causing substances more effectively—despite the fact that auto exhausts contain 60 times more of the cancer-causing agents.

    Wynder warned that the presence of the waxlike chemical in tobacco tar does not prevent lung cancer, hopes that eventually enough of the chemical can be added to cigarettes to eliminate the need for filters.”

    http: //www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,895307,00.html

    Sorry for a long winded answer to a simple question, but I wouldn’t expect anyone to just take my word for it without at least some explanation.


    • It’s pretty damp where I live. Leaves go mouldy easily here.

      I haven’t tried cardboard though. It does have water-extracting properties. You should see the skin on the hands of the guys who work in the stockroom! Handling cardboard boxes all day makes your skin crack.


      • Plain cardboard has worked very well for me.

        I was looking for a simple way to cure tobacco, using things you can find about the house. I’ve tried several methods over the years and none of them were satisfactory, I didn’t want to star building contraptions that might or might not work, so I decided to research and replicate indirect fire curing.
        Now what I do have about the house is a large heated propagator and lots of bath towels.

        The 2012 crop was the one where I achieved the result I was looking for so I’m happy with that.
        I smoke Original Blend American Spirit so I didn’t want weak stuff or peculiar aftertastes.
        I think Junican has the method in bits and pieces on his blog, but if you like I will happily write it up for you in a clearer form.


          • Here you are Leggy.
            It’s probably too dull to be a blog post, reading it over, it bares an uncanny resemblance to the knitting patterns I used to write 30 years ago.

            Tell me if any of it doesn’t make sense.


            How to cure Virginian tobacco despite the British weather

            Materials and Method.

            Bath towels

            Button Thread (colour of your choice).

            Large darning needle.

            Dowel rod.


            Large heated propagator.

            Off cuts of wood deep enough to form a rack to keep the leaves 2″ above the element in the bottom of the propagator.

            After the plants have started flowering, (lower, scrap leaves having previously been removed), start harvesting, taking no more than two leaves per plant per week so as not to weaken the plant and choosing leaves that have turned a bright yellowish green, darker more cabbage coloured ones are too thick, taste awful and will not cure properly.

            Place your thumb on the top of the midrib of the leaf where it joins the stalk and press down,if the leaf is ready it will snap easily.

            After you have picked several ripe leaves, rinse the leaves if necessary and peg them out to wilt on the washing line.

            After a few hours wilting, pile the floppy leaves into a neat stack and place in position across the shorter edge of the bath towel.

            Roll the bath towel up loosely as if you were making a swiss roll, with the leaves in the middle.

            Put the wooden rack in the bottom of the propagator and place the wrapped bundle of leaves on top of it.

            If the leaf or towel touch the base of the propagator the leaves may scald and be ruined.

            Using the thermometer make sure that the temperature where the towel roll sits never gets above 41°C.

            The propagator doesn’t need to be on all the time, I turn it on for about half an hour in the morning, turn the roll so both sides have been warmed, then turn the propagator off so that it doesn’t exceed 41 degrees.
            Turning it on again at around lunch time and again in the evening.

            On a warm day the towelled roll can simply be left on the windowsill until around tea time.

            Shuffle the leaves at least once daily, introducing air and moving outside leaves to the middle of the pile.

            After two or three days some of the leaves will have turned entirely yellow, using the button thread doubled throughout, select a pair of roughly matching leaves and push the threaded darning needle through both midribs, leaving a long thread and tie both ends in a knot, then hang them over a dowel rod to dry.

            Do not leave yellow leaves hanging overnight, when they cool down, mould can start to form on the moist surfaces.

            Every evening put the yellow leaves back into the centre of the stack to moisten again and be warmed, they will begin to brown and after a further day or two when they are completely brown except for the veins and midrib, they are ready to dry.

            I sandwich them between sheets of kitchen roll for around 12 hours under a heavy book, then they can be hung up and left for the midrib to dry out entirely.

            This pressing, though not essential, means that you can slide them together on the dowel rod so that they don’t take up quite so much space.

            At this stage the midribs and veins should be a pale cream colour, if these have gone brown too they have gone too far and should be thrown away.

            At any point in the process new, green, previously wilted leaves can be added to the roll to keep the moisture up, and to replace the hanging brown leaves. Put them equally on top and underneath the yellowing and browning leaves in the stack and roll them up in the bath towel as before.

            If with the addition of newly picked leaves the centre of the bundle becomes wet, hang the wet leaves over the dowel rod to dry a little, then re-roll them in a new bath towel.

            In this way you can steadly go through harvesting and curing the crop regardless of the weather.

            When the midrib on each leaf has completely dried out and looks like a thin dry stick, I leave them in a cardboard box in a dry warm place to age for a while.

            Two years seems about right.


            • Copied, pasted and printed. Thanks, it’s good to have step by step instructions. Is that the same method Junican used? He had a heated propagator.

              I have fridge-sized incubators in the little-used lab…


              • Junican copied the method in part but I don’t think he was comfortable with the concept of taking the curing right through to brown in the propagator, I think he ties it up in small bundles after yellow as he did previously. He also cuts out the midribs to make the small bundles whereas I need them for hanging and to keep the structure of the leaf intact for handling later on.

                I followed the principles of indirect flue curing from reading the agricultural instructions from various colleges.
                During those weeks of overcast in early autumn 2012, I had to think of something fast or lose the lot.
                I got the maximum temperature for the propagator from curing barns, after all, if you can’t beat them, join them.

                And that’s not all I found.

                Retrofitting Tobacco Curing Barns

                “Most bulk curing barns built before the mid-1970s were indirect-fired. They had a heat exchanger and flue that directed the combustion gases out of the barn (fuel oil burners). A number of these barns are still in use. Some tobacco samples taken from these older indirect-fired barns during the 2000 curing season were found to have very low to undetectable levels of TSNA.

                This does not mean that all older heat exchanger barns will produce satisfactory tobacco. Some samples taken from other older indirect-fired barns were found to have TSNA levels approaching those found in direct-fired barns. This suggests that the heat exchangers and flues in these barns may have cracks or holes that allow combustion gases to escape into the barn.”

                “Recent research has shown that a class of carcinogenic (cancer-causing) compounds known as tobacco specific nitrosamines (TSNAs) may be formed in flue-cured tobacco leaves during the curing process.

                These compounds are not found in green (uncured) tobacco. Present research suggests that TSNAs are formed through a chemical reaction between nicotine and other compounds contained in the uncured leaf and various oxides of nitrogen (NOx) found in all combustion gases, regardless of the fuel used.

                Eliminating NOx compounds in the curing air by using a heat exchanger system has been shown capable of reducing TSNAs to undetectable levels in cured tobacco.”

                (less than 0.1 part per million).

                “What About Existing Diesel Burners??

                “Orginal fuel oil heat exchanger models were not solid welded and have the potential for leaking combustion gases in the curing chamber.


                So as you see, an electric propagator is ideal.


                • At great expense the farmers got the problem fixed, because the tobacco companies refused to buy tobacco with high TSNA..

                  Reading this hopeful article from 2001 in retrospect, it’s sad to think that for all that time and effort the farmers put in , the WHO and the drugs companies had already stitched them up.

                  Back to the Future – 2001

                  “Before this year, virtually all the flue-cured tobacco produced in North Carolina was cured in direct-fired curing barns. A burner that burns natural or propane gas is attached to each barn. This burner heats the air in the barn, curing the tobacco.

                  Tobacco was not always cured this way in North Carolina. Boyette said that before World War II wood was the preferred fuel for curing barns. A wood fire burned just outside the barn. The heat and combustion gases flowed through a flue, usually made of brick, that snaked across the floor of the barn, then rose up through the barn. Because the gases moved through the flue, the tobacco was never exposed to them. The barns were heated, and the tobacco cured, but the heat was indirect.”

                  ““This industry can turn on a dime,” he said. “We have educated farmers.”

                  He added that growers are willing to make whatever changes are necessary to produce a product buyers want.

                  And Boyette thinks reducing nitrosamines in tobacco may ultimately help preserve the industry, since nitrosamines are thought to be a primary carcinogen in tobacco.

                  “Nitrosamines may not be the last thing we have to deal with,” Boyette said. “But I’m convinced there will be a time when there’s a safer cigarette.” The production of such a product would help ensure the future of North Carolina tobacco growers.



  7. Traditional sweet shops used to – and I think still may – have large screw-top plastic ‘jars’ a gallon or so in size that the loose sweets came in. I have a couple from a local shop some years ago which I use for garage storage. The one I used for my home grown leaves from 18 months ago was sealed up with a spoonful of whiskey added and still looks ok.


  8. If you wanted to eliminate the air from the packaging, you might consider one of these. I’m not sure how far one of the capsules would go (200 half-second bursts, the blurb says elsewhere), but at $30 for three plus the dispenser, they don’t seem particularly expensive. They’re from USA though – dunno if they export to Europe. However, there may be something along the same lines available in the UK.


  9. Combine physics with chemistry – CO2 is heavier than air – make a CO2 “well” Stand open topped jars filled with baccy and booze of your choice n a bucket or other deep container. Put bicarb and vinegar mix in the bottom of the bucket, leave for a few minutes so CO2 fills bucket and displaces air from jars, the reach in (gently – don’t want to cause mixing of air and CO2) and put lids on jars….


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