The Pennyroyal Area Museum in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, is in the heart of the Black Patch, an agricultural region named for its unique and far-reaching crop called dark or — in earlier times black — tobacco.
Most tobacco is hung in barns to dry — or cure — as air moves around it. Dark tobacco is often cured in barns filled with smoke using a process uncommon outside of the Black Patch. It is labor intensive and sometimes dangerous. Smoldering fires of hickory and oak are carefully controlled to fill the curing barn with smoke, saturating the drying leaves and giving them a characteristic flavor. The product is called dark-fired or dark fire-cured tobacco.
Dark fire-cured tobacco is used in chewing tobacco, pipe tobacco, dipping snuff, and cigars. The farms of the Black Patch are the world’s top producers of dark fire-cured tobacco.