BizArre Magazine Article
BizArre is a popular magazine in the UK claiming to be 'A magazine about life in the extreme ... and more'. Issue 74, June 2001 carried a double page spread about Chris and his tobacco seeds. The full article has been reproduced below.
A smoker has thrown down the gauntlet to the international tobacco barons by growing his own hardy forms of Virginia and Havana on his allotment. Now Chris Gurnley is selling the seeds from these strains, which he has developed over the years to cope with the unforgiving british climate, over the internet. He reckons a million plants have grown from his seeds across the world, including Iceland, Australia, Sri Lanka and New Zealand.
Unlike that interesting pointy plant you keep in the bathroom, the cash crop which grows on Chris's Croydon allotment is entirely legal.
The eccentric grandfather of 12 dislikes today's "throwaway consumer age". He admits that, initially, saving for a rainy day, and his reluctance to part with the readies had prompted his cultivating the hobby.
He says: "I've always been a dedicated saver but it's got to throw it down before I spend it."
The 58-year-old 20-a-day smoker grows Virginia tobacco, which can be made into cigarettes, and Havana, from which he makes impressive cigars.
If his venture really takes off, it could be a huge blow to the tobacco giants. An average allotment plot can produce £7,500 worth of tobacco annually. Chris got the idea from his brother who used to grow tobacco years ago.
He says: "I don't mined anyone knocking smoking. I would never try to persuade anyone to smoke. My argument is that people who can ill afford to smoke need to find a cheaper way."
Growing tobacco could also provide a shot in the arm for many hard-pressed allotments.
Chris adds: "People aren't aware that allotments are so cheap and so empty. Seeds are reared much like tomatoes. But growing and curing the plants, then rolling the cigars or cigarettes takes time and effort."
If all goes well seeds planted in march can be ready for harvesting in September.
Leaves, tied together in hanks, have to be dried slowly. The plants are cured the following summer by hanging the hanks in a humid greenhouse. In two months, the tobacco should smell sweet and be ready for smoking.
After all that exercise, Chris reckons you can feel less guilty about a little indulgence.
He says: "I'll accept [smoking]'s not good for your health but I'm making up for it by going outside and growing [the tobacco]".
TOP TEN TIPS
Growing tobacco for your own use is perfectly legal. But expect HM Customs and Excise to slap a tax on if you sell your crop.
Just one tobacco plant can produce up to a million seeds. Your second year's crop could sustain an industry.
Seeds need to germinate by March. This allows the seedlings two months to develop before planting out begins inMay.
Seeds need temperatures of 21 degrees c – 27 degrees c to germinate. A propagator – around £2.50 from your local nursery – will help. Once at the seedling stage, a minimum of 13 degrees c is needed. Then they grow outside as normal.
A 1-metre by 8-metre patch can sustain 50 plants.
One plant can produce 100g of tobacco, enough for 100 cigarettes.
Tobacco won't go off if kept dry, it just mellows with age.
A greenhouse can be converted into a simple curing chamber in which the tobacco will take a minimum of 4 weeks to cure.
Most soils suit tobacco plants – but they need plenty of water. Your second year's crop should adjust to the soil and produce better tobacco.
Plants grow up to 2 metres high. Those you retain for seeds will display pretty pink flowers. So they'll look dandy with your mum's hollyhocks.
Chris's ace website can be found at www.coffinails.com or write to him at Plantation House, 96 Old Farleigh Road, Selsdon, Croydon, CR2 8QE, UK.
ROLLING YOUR OWN CIGAR
Crush the leaves until they look like loose tea. Remove woody bits. Take a thick leaf and roll as you would with cigarette paper. Re-moisten leaf with spray gun or steam. Drop into former (or mould), a block of wood with holes the size of cigars. Dry in oven at 70-90 degrees c for 30 minutes. Diagonally wind larger leaf around the outside, use egg white to glue. Trim with scissors to tidy. Put into cedarwood box to age. Now just forget about them.
The taste will improve the longer you leave it - a maximum of seven to ten years. You should be able to make about 15 cigars an hour.
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