Bell pepper seeds are started in greenhouses, and the seedlings are transplanted in the fields at five or six weeks old. Peppers are generally grown in plastic mulch on raised beds, which warm up more quickly in the spring and enhance earlier growth. At full size, the bell pepper plant is bushy, four feet tall, and two to three inches wide. Flowers will blossom through the growing season.
Peppers can be harvested when they are immature (green) or mature (red), depending on the market intended for the product. A single field can be harvested multiple times at 10 to 15-day intervals. Most Georgia-grown peppers are harvested multiple times, from June to October. Bell peppers are usually harvested by hand and dumped into bulk bins or trailers to carry them to packing facilities.
Grading and Picking
Peppers are graded and packed by size and color. Federal grade standards for bell peppers are based on the number of defects visible. The peppers may be cooled by hydro-cooling before packing or forced-air cooling after being packed into boxes and on pallets. Fresh peppers may be stored for up to three weeks in cool, moist conditions. They also may be frozen, dried or processed for later use.
Once the peppers have been graded and packed, they are shipped to the buying points in refrigerated trucks. Peppers grown on south Georgia farms are distributed to a number of states throughout the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.
Peppers could be sold to fresh market, which includes roadside stands, wholesalers and retailers, farmers markets, community-supported agriculture (CSA), produce auctions and cooperatives. These fresh peppers are often used in salads, stuffings, garnishes and more. Peppers can also be processed and frozen, cut or pickled.