I remember my first pepper crop. The summer of 2006. It was an unmitigated disaster.
It was my very first year farming and the pepper seedlings were pathetic. I had so much going on that I wasn’t able to give them much attention. They were spindly and yellow. When I finally planted them, about 6 weeks late in early July, they hardly stood a chance. The plants were tiny. My fields were weedy. And the summer was cool. Before I knew it, Autumn arrived and I think I harvested one lonely pepper that season.
Over the following winter, I resolved that it would not happen again. I read about peppers and I studied all things peppers. I attended workshops on peppers. I called and talked to other farmers about peppers. I bought a pepper T-shirt. I was obsessed with peppers. As a result, my second year crop was amazing. Lots of peppers of all colors and stripes. The plants were healthy and productive. All rejoiced.
We now grow over an acre of peppers. This spring, we started 25, 431 plants. We grow over 16 different types of sweet peppers. From colored bells to heirlooms to 4 varieties on Slow Food’s Ark of Taste. We grow 11 different types of hot peppers too. In March, we spend weeks and weeks seeding each pepper. By early April, the peppers go out to the greenhouse where they take over everything. Watering these seedlings takes almost an hour a day. In May, we hire extra folks to come and help us plant. It is a big job.
Chefs clamor for them. Kids marvel at the purple bells. Our heirlooms are the talk of the town. Moms and dads like them because they’re familiar and easy to use. The food pantries tell me their clients can hardly wait for pepper season. Even the crew likes to pick them because they’re so plentiful. New farmhands marvel at the cornucopia of shapes, sizes, and colors. Peppers are one of my favorite crops to grow and eat. They are probably our most important crop. Since that second year, we’ve had abundant harvests and more than enough peppers for all.
Except this year.
I just plowed under our hot peppers and I have a feeling I’ll do the same for our sweet peppers this week. Heavy rain in the spring meant that I couldn’t get out and cultivate our peppers. Weeds took over, disease followed, and the plants are suffering.
Sad to see them go.