How Bell Peppers Grow in California
Sweet peppers are “in season” eight months out of the year in California. We met with Tim Baloian of Baloian Farms to chat about how bell peppers grow in California.
What are sweet peppers?
Have you ever read a recipe and wondered “what are sweet peppers”? Sweet peppers are peppers that are less spicy with a slightly sweet flavor. All colors of bell peppers (including mini peppers), banana peppers and Pimento peppers fall under this umbrella.
What are mini peppers?
Now that we’ve answered “what are sweet peppers”, let’s learn about mini bell peppers.
Mini peppers are still part of the sweet pepper family. They are smaller (obviously) and sweeter than their larger cousins. In case you’re wondering, mini peppers aren’t just bell peppers that have been picked before they’ve fully matured. They’re believed to be a hybrid of wild bird peppers and traditional bell peppers.
How are mini peppers grown?
“Mini Peppers are more difficult to grow than traditional bell peppers. Each color (red, orange and yellow) is a different variety. It takes a lot of planning for all three varieties to be ready to be harvested at the same time,” Tim explains.
In March, mini peppers are started in seed trays and carefully tended to in a greenhouse for the first few months.
By May, the seedlings are ready to be transplanted into the field. After about four months in the ground (typically around August), harvest begins. Mini peppers produce more than one crop, so harvest continues through November.
Because mini peppers are so small, they’re much more difficult to harvest. When picking the tiny peppers, workers need to take care to not damage the surrounding plant. This could lessen the crop’s ultimate yield.
How do bell peppers grow in California?
Like mini peppers, bell peppers also started in seed trays and moved to the ground once the seedling is hardy enough. While mini peppers are in season from August – November, bell peppers are harvested eight months out of the year in California. Typically, bell pepper harvest begins in Baloian’s southernmost location (the Coachella Valley) in April. As the weather warms up, production moves north. Baloian Farms grows bell peppers in Coachella Valley, Bakersfield, Fresno, Hollister, Stockton and Oxnard.
How are bell peppers harvested?
Bell peppers are hand harvested by a team of skilled laborers. “The people that pick and pack our peppers are a specialized crew,” Tim states. They know how to protect the plant.” The team harvests row by row, carefully removing the pepper from the plant. If the pepper is removed hastily or incorrectly, this would damage the entire plant. Improper harvesting techniques can reduce a field’s yield.
Because this is such a specialized skill, Baloian Farms has a team that follows the harvest up and down the state.
What happens after peppers are harvested?
The team picking the peppers uses specialized totes to protect the peppers while harvesting. Then, they are immediately moved to a cold storage area. The next day the peppers are thoroughly washed, packed and transported to your local grocer!
Are bell peppers grown sustainably?
Like many California farmers, Tim Baloian understands the importance of sustainable farming. Tim was born into a farm family and always knew he would join the family business. “I am in love with the miracle of farming. We take a field that doesn’t look good and we turn it into a thing of order and beauty. We also grow and produce the most nutritional thing that human beings can eat. I can’t think of a better thing to do in life.” By protecting our air, water and soil, Tim is helping to preserve the land for the next generation of Baloians.
Like many California farmers, Tim Baloian understands the importance of sustainable farming. Tim was born into a farm family and always knew he would join the family business.
“I am in love with the miracle of farming. We take a field that doesn’t look good and we turn it into a thing of order and beauty. We also grow and produce the most nutritional thing that human beings can eat. I can’t think of a better thing to do in life.” By protecting our air, water and soil, Tim is helping to preserve the land for the next generation of Baloians.
“Sustainability is really a broad stroke,” Tim says. “We use drip irrigation to conserve water. We use all recyclable boxes. We’ve invested a lot of money in solar energy. The biggest thing we do to be sustainable, though, is our people. They’re our greatest asset. We’re nothing without them.”
How does Baloian Farms invest in their employees?
To Tim, finding and keeping great employees all boils down to one thing – respect. He views his employees as a team, and stresses the fact that success depends on each and every one of them. If an employee is interested in advancement, Baloian Farms offers in-house training to teach them the necessary skills.
Clearly, this method is working. Tim proudly speaks of employees who have been around for 40-50 years. Some of their children have even joined the team, filling important roles in the offices and in the fields. “What’s great is they understand the business, they understand the work ethic. These people get the job done. We do amazing things every day”.
Delicious ways to enjoy mini bell peppers
Now that you know all about how bell peppers grow in California, let’s look at some of our favorite ways to enjoy them!
Mini Stuffed Peppers with Walnuts and Pepper Jack Cheese
This easy appetizer is perfect for your next party. Be sure to bring along a bottle of California Zinfandel – it pairs beautifully with our Mini Stuffed Peppers!
Easy Stuffed Bell Peppers
This Stuffed Bell Pepper recipe is endlessly customizable (read: leftover friendly), super quick and totally delicious. What more could you ask for?
Where to buy CA Grown Peppers?
Look for Baloian Farms peppers at your favorite local grocer!
Check out Baloian Farm’s website for more delicious recipes!
Love reading about California farmers? Learn more about the Marianis, a fourth generation farm family!
Article and photography by Hilary Rance for CA GROWN . Additional photography provided by James Collier for CA GROWN.