Want spice? The Sacramento Valley has you covered! Currently, 150 tons of jalapeño and bell peppers are harvested daily by M3 Ranches in Yolo County. Third-generation farmer Colin Muller gave us a glimpse of how these hot commodities go from seed to sandwich. If you top your deli order or fast food burger with spicy stuff, you’ve probably eaten their peppers.
Green is Keen
Peppers are chameleons, as they change colors, and harvest is timed so the peppers are picked at perfection.
“We are targeting green jalapeños, if you wait a little too long they start turning red, it’s a maturation issue” described Muller.
These jalapeños will travel far and wide. Once harvested they head to a processing plant in Stockton where they are then shipped to some very familiar spots.
“It’s a green slice that will end up in Subways across America, Burger Kings, various fast food joints, they have a specific specification that I need to harvest to, and its primarily a 98-99% green pepper that I need to get into the trailers.”
Water management is key to keeping peppers from drying out too quickly. A heat spell over 100 degrees changes peppers from red to green quickly.
As for the bell peppers, they are also picked to color and size specifications and eventually get sliced and diced to top frozen pizzas or stuffed for a frozen food item such as Stouffer’s Stuffed Peppers.
Climate is Key
Peppers, be it jalapeños or bells, thrive in the Sacramento Valley region.
“We have a Mediterranean climate in the summer, meaning we get very little rain during the summer and a nice climate; not too hot, not too cold overnight. We also have great soils to farm on that are very highly productive with the variety of crops we can grow,” detailed Muller.
Planting starts in April and weather depending, harvest usually hits in late July and continues through October.
Labor of Love
M3 Ranches farms within a 7-mile radius in Yolo county where they grow everything from processing tomatoes, sunflowers, and cucumbers to watermelon, squash, walnuts, almonds and more.
Standing in a row of jalapeño pepper plants Muller reflected on the joy of growing these spicy numbers.
“Being able to take these crops from womb to tomb, where I get to purchase seeds in January to be sent to a nursery, I have a lot of time invested and our team takes great care of these crops once they are in the ground. It is such a lengthy process when you are finally harvesting there’s this sense of exuberance seeing crop come off.”