Saturday, February 26, 2011
A WEED GROWS IN BROOKLYN
Though I spent time in North Carolina, I never saw a tobacco plant up close up till I went to London, where my neighbours on Devonshire Road had one. It was about 4 feet high and rather pretty, it took pride of place in their front yard facing east. Nicotia is not usually grown along with nasturtiums and pansies...but this one featured nicely.
Yesterday I read about a woman in NYC who has dozens of them growing in her backyard, which she calls the Bloomberg Garden, in honour of the mayor who wants to take away the right to smoke just about anywhere in NYC...which may be dangerous, as then the only place left to smoke is in the flat, and that is where fires start...such as the one started yesterday by some voodoo priest getting into a sex act among the candles; somehow the clothes he had shed and left on the floor got hot. From what, we don't know. It may have been the candles.
Anyway, I am supporting the rights of smokers to smoke in parks etc. if for no other reason the safety issue. The Nicotia grower also supports smokers' rights, and she is using her green thumb to highlight the issue. Audrey Silk is a former NYC cop who grows her own; and dries, cuts and rolls it too. 25 plants made about 9 cartons for her last year, this year she has 100 plants and a house full of leaves hanging from the ceiling. The seeds cost her about $2, so she is one of the few smokers who is not giving her money to the tobacco industry, one which I truly loathe - note that Thomas Jefferson wrote against tobacco in favour of hemp. The former won out, and millions of Americans now pay through the nose for it, while they are not allowed to grow hemp.
And Americans may not be allowed to grow their own tobacco either, Silk fears; she told the New York Times: "We fear that the anti-smokers are so hysterical that if they start finding that people are doing this, they would craft a law to make it illegal. I'm waiting for the black helicopters to start flying over my yard." (Manny Fernandez. "Now in Brooklyn, Homegrown Tobacco: Local, Rebellious and Tax Free. 25 February, 2011, pp. A19/A25.)
Seeds can be purchased from Seedman.com, a company in Mississippi. The president, Jim Johnson, says tobacco grows anywhere there were about 100 frost free nights, and that he even had customers in Alaska, summing up that it was a "very tough, resilient plant."
Silk plants the seeds in trays indoors; weeks later, she transplants them to buckets outside. She waters daily until they are about five feet tall, with big leaves that droop from the stem. After harvesting she washes them, dries them, take out the middle vein, and then makes bricks of 15 leaves which she feeds to a shredder.
Selling them, however, would be illegal; she claims she does not. There must be a market for them, especially as they do not contain all the additives and pesticide residue that most cigarettes contain. Which are probably a main cause of pollution here in NYC - along with pesticides sprays, mercury used in Santerria rituals, lead and asbestos. This is one toxic city.
But speaking of tobacco, there is an event going on this week in Cuba, the XIII Festival del Habano which features tobacco, including that from the Pinar del Rio area, considered to produce the finest leaves in the world. But who knows, maybe the Brooklyn become the next Cuba.