Been A While ~ Time to Catch UP

2018 season was a busy one. Hot! Dry! Heat affects the maturing of the peppercorns. The harvest started slowly but progressed rapidly as the intense heat ripened the fruit of the 2018 growing season. A once a year harvest, the picking begins in January and is usually complete by the end of February. (2018 is harvested in 2019). The hot sun can turn a slow harvest into one where we are struggling to pick the peppercorns before they fall to the ground. We have been asked, "Why are your peppercorns not black?". The answer to that lies in the quality we wish to obtain. Color of the outer skin of the peppercorn only indicates the maturity of the peppercorn when it was harvested. Our peppercorns vary in color from black, a dark gray to pure white. Those peppercorns that are white have reached their ultimate maturity. The thin skin has turned bright red and when we do our washing the skin slips off, therefore revealing only the white seed. Those that are a little off color could be peppercorns that were mature yet not mature enough for the skin to slip off during the cleaning process. Right from the harvesting of the fruit of the pepper vine, to the drying of the peppercorns themselves, our process is all hands on. A sheller ( a pea sheller) knocks the peppercorns off the vine. From there one of our reliable help sort through to remove any left over stems. The next step is the washing and sifting out of the immature peppercorns that commercially would become ground pepper. After a thorough washing in potable water the peppercorns are placed on drying tables for 8 to 10 days and where they will receive the morning sun that allows them to dry while retaining their fruity flavor and their essential oil. Drought affects the pepper vine. Piper Nigrum is a vine. As a vine it requires a support or host to grow on. The extensive dry season we had this 2019 was hard on the mother plant and on the host tree. Loss always occurs but this past season we did experience a great number of plants that did not survive. Predictably the rain usually starts in mid March, this year we had a few showers but it was later in the month be fore we received the much needed precipitation. Farmers always look forward to another growing season. Our plants are carefully tended after the seasons harvest and are pruned and given all natural soil amending nutrients. Calcium and magnesium, along with the leaf debris from the host trees gives our orchard the balance it requires to produce a healthy new harvest. Here is to 2020! Look forward to our 22nd year producing quality, flavorful peppercorns. Orchard del Sol began it's journey in 1993. Pepper became the focus in 1997. We are still diverse. Ramon harvests oranges that he sells. A small amount of coffee is harvested by him and his family which he sells or uses himself. We are all getting older. The intense years of sustain-ability are now behind us. Eduardo has taken on most of the responsibility of the farms upkeep. We still enjoy sharing our paradise with those wishing a tour of the Little Farm the Believed it Could!

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Copyright protected ~ 2019 by Carole Thomas, The Pepper Lady.

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