How Tobacco was Grown in 1620 Virginia

Planting Tobacco in Jamestown

“In spring red seed, in preference to the white, is put into a clean pot; milk or stale beer is poured over it, and it is left for two or three days in this state; it is then mixed with a quantity of fine fat earth, and set aside in a hot chamber, till the seeds begin to put out shoots. They are then sown in a hot-bed. When the young spring plants have grown to a (the length of) a finger, they are taken up between the fifteenth and twenty-second of May, and planted in ground that has been previously well manured with the dung of doves or swine. They are placed at square distances of one and a half-foot from one another. In dry weather, they are now to be watered with lukewarm water softly showered upon them, between sunset and twilight. When these plants are full two feet high, the top of the stems are broken off, to make the leaves grow thicker and broader. Here and there are left a few plants having their tops broken off, in order that they may afford seeds for another year. Throughout the summer the other plants are from time to time, pruned at the top, and the whole field is carefully weeded to make the growth of the leaf so much the more vigorous. In the month of September, from the sixteenth day, and between the hours of ten in the morning and four in the afternoon, the best leaves are to be taken off. It is more advantaeous to pluck the leaves when they are dry than when they are moist. When plucked they are to be immediately brought home, and hung upon cords within the house to dry, in as full exposure as is possible to the influence of the sun and air; but as to receive no rain. In this exposure they remain till the months of March and April following; when they are to be put up in bundles, and conveyed to the store-house, in which they may be kept, that they may be there till more perfectly dried by a moderate heat. Within eight days they must be removed to a different place where they are to be sparingly sprinkled with salt water, and left till the leaves shall be no longer warm to the feeling of the hand. A barrel of water with six handfuls of salt are the proportions. After this the tobacco leaves may be laid aside for commercial exploration. They will remain fresh for three years.” Source: Tobacco, Its History, Varieties, Culture, Manufacture and Commerce by E. R. Billings (1873). More histories and genealogies

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