Harvesting Bell Peppers
Bell peppers are harvested by hand into harvesting buckets. In this case, they are harvesting red bell peppers, so they are looking to select peppers based on the color. They can harvest them before they are fully red and they will turn fully red within a few days. As you can see below, not all of the bell peppers ripen/color up at the same time, so multiple passes (typically, 3-4 passes) are made through the same field to harvest the peppers.
Bell Pepper Ripening on Plant
How are bell peppers harvested?
They are harvested by hand, without the use of any clippers.
How many times are the same plants harvested? In other words, how many passes are made through the same field?
The same plants are harvested 3-4 times. Not all of the bell peppers ripen on the plant at the same time, so the workers go through and harvest them once they reach the desired color.
How do you know when bell peppers are ready for harvest?
For these red bell peppers, it is all determined based on the color of the peppers. As the bell peppers grow, they start out as green and change color to red as they ripen. They can harvest the peppers when they are almost fully red and they will continue to change from green to red after harvest (although they do not continue ripening after harvest).
Processing and packaging peppers
Developing and sharing knowledge
The jury found that the company deserved the business award because they develop and share knowledge and collaborate with colleagues and industry partners to further develop the bell pepper production and the greenhouse vegetable sector.
Fresh bell peppers
Only ripe peppers are harvested
The length of time between removing the peppers from the plant and delivering them to buyers is minimal. This is because 4Evergreen itself cultivates, sorts, packs and delivers the product to the customer. Because this process is so fast, 4Evergreen delivers her bell peppers with the best possible guarantee of freshness. Bell peppers which are growing on the pepper plant today could be in the supermarket tomorrow.
Bell pepper harvest
Production and packaging in one location
When the bell peppers are ripe they are removed from the plant. This means that the bell pepper has the right size and color. An unripe bell pepper is green, after 5 or 6 weeks the pepper turns red, yellow or orange. The color of the bell pepper depends on the cultivar that is grown, for each color there is a different cultivar. After the bell peppers have been cut off the plants, they are moved via automated transport vehicles to the packaging facility.
Processing bell peppers
Harvested peppers are immediately cooled
In the packaging facility the bell peppers are processed. The peppers are cooled, sorted by size, weight and color as soon as they have arrived. 4Evergreen processes bell peppers of 5 different colors: green, red, yellow, orange and also the unique “red-yellow striped”: concept:1. The entire process is fully automated and controlled by computers. Cameras ensure that the bell peppers are sorted with precision and by size.
Bell peppers in flow pack, shrink seal or loose.
4Evergreen has designed a machine to package the product. This way, we package bell peppers per piece but also in mixes of 2, 3, or 4. When 2 or more pieces are packaged, these are often combinations of multiple colors which we call bell pepper mix. We have the ability to supply flow pack packaging and shrink seal packaging from our own cultivation sites to retail. This way we can deliver fresh produce daily, minimize quality loss and increase shelf life.
Top quality bell peppers
Quality is guaranteed by international certificates.
The bell peppers are packaged in accordance with certificates Global-Gap, IFS, QS and BRC. Since 2005, we are experienced in packaging and offer maximum care for the quality of our products. With our four production lines, we can produce sixty tons of packaging daily. The products that are to be packaged are put through a certified check weigher to ensure the weight of the packaging. The packaging labels can be assembled as desired. All barcodes, fonts and languages are possible. Finally, you can have your packages delivered to the customer in a variety of cases or boxes.
Sustainable business operations
Full harvesting carts with freshly cut bell peppers drive automatically to the barn.
The bell peppers are buffered here for sorting or offered directly to the sorting machine. The harvesting carts and the buffer operate fully automatically without manual intervention.
Bell pepper sorting machine
4Evergreen has a large sorting facility.
In this video, red bell peppers are automatically sorted and packed into boxes. The boxes are filled automatically by weight.
Packaging bell peppers in flow packs
Bell pepper packaging machine
4Evergreen can supply bell peppers in flow packs. We supply, among others, mixed packs with three colors of bell peppers (traffic light), or packaged per piece. This video shows you how bell peppers are individually packaged. We can sticker your information directly on the packaging.
Do bell peppers continue ripening after harvest?
No. They are non-climacteric and do not continue ripening after harvest. The color change that can occur after harvest is aided by warmer temperatures instead of the use of ethylene, which is common for the degreening of citrus fruit.
Bell Pepper Packing in the Field
When bell peppers are packed in the field, they are taken from the field directly to the harvesting rig, where packers are working to pack the peppers into boxes. The main thing the workers are focusing on is checking for quality as they pack, since they are packing for three different markets at the same time. The packers have three boxes set up at a time, and each one represents a different market.
Bell Pepper Packing in the Field
There is also an additional quality control step, where a designated worker takes a sample of the harvested product to check for any issues, such as shriveling, decay, insect damage, sunburn, bruising, and much more.
You can see the full process in the video below.
In the example above, everything is packed up and ready for the cooler once it leaves the field. However, other operations harvest their bell peppers and send them to a packing house to be sorted and packed.
Bell Pepper Packing in the Packing House
When bell peppers are packed and sent to the packing house, they arrive in large field bins and go through a scrubbing step and additional sorting steps. You can see an overview of the process below:
The bell pepper packing process in the packing house is as follows:
Box Formation – Boxes are formed in house. There is a machine that is designated for box making. Once the boxes are formed, they are transported to the packing area.
Product Arrival – The product arrives at the packinghouse via bins from the field. They are brought into the facility with a forklift that places them in line for the bin dump.
Bin Dumping – The bins are dry dumped onto the machinery and are transported on a conveyor belt.
Brush Step – The initial conveyor belt consists of brushes that scrub the exterior portion of the bell peppers.
Sorting – There are two sorting areas. The first is where the culls are sorted out. While, the second determines which market the bell peppers will go to (e.g., primary or secondary), and removes any additional culls.
Packing – Bell peppers are either hand packed for the primary market, or machine packed for the secondary market.
Palletizing – The bell peppers that are packed by hand for the primary market are palletized in the packinghouse and taken to cold storage. While those that are machine packed are sent outside on a conveyor belt, where they are palletized and taken to cold storage.
Cooling – The packed bell peppers are stored in the cooler until they are shipped, where they are force-air cooled.
Bell Pepper Packinghouse Overview
Bell Pepper Packing
Bell Pepper Packinghouse - Brush Step
Bell Pepper Packinghouse - Sorting
Bell Pepper Packinghouse - Packing
Bell Pepper Packinghouse - Forced Air Cooling
Featured Grower Information
I would like to send a big thank you to Illume Ag and Uesugi Farms for allowing me to visit, gather and share this footage. Illume Ag grows bell peppers and table grapes, among other crops, throughout California in the Bakersfield and Coachella areas. Uesugi Farms bell pepper packing house was located in Gilroy, California, but has unfortunately gone out of business since my visit.
The invention discloses a method for processing green peppers. The method comprises the following steps of: (1) pepper harvesting: picking fresh green pepper fruits 5-15 days before the peppers ripen; (2) washing: washing with water within 230-1,430min after being harvested to remove impurities; (3) pretreatment: scalding the fresh pepper fruits in the step (2) with hot water at 80-100 DEG C for 2-10min, cooling and drying; (4) freezing: freezing the dry fresh pepper fruits obtained in the step (3) for 240-720min at -18 DEG C; and then freeze-drying at -30 to -40 DEG C until the water content is lower than 8 percent. The method for processing the green peppers has the advantages of short time, high efficiency and better pepper rehydration property, and moreover, microorganisms are not easy to infect in the processing process, thus the hygienic quality index of the products can be guaranteed; most important, the processed peppers have seductive green skins, strong hot taste and pure fragrance; and the invention increases the varieties of pepper products in China and can earn foreign exchanges through export and promote the economic values of the peppers.
By definition, 'processing' does not involve harvesting. However, one cannot produce a good product from badly harvested materials. Correct harvesting techniques could be said to be the most important factor in the production of a high quality final product. The main problem is immature harvesting.
The main reasons for immature harvesting is the fear of theft. If the crop is picked correctly when it is mature the higher yields and higher value of the final product may offset the losses due to theft.
Through extension officers, correct harvesting should be encouraged.
However sometimes immature pepper receives a higher price than mature pepper due to purchase by food processors due to its higher percentage of flavour components.
The pepper spike should be picked when one or more of the berries start going yellow/orange. The berries should be hard to the touch.
In most countries the harvested pepper berries are removed from the spikes before drying. This can be done by hand, beating with sticks or trampling on the pepper spikes.
A clean product is essential. The major problem for the export of pepper by small-scale farmers is the production of a sufficiently clean product.
The first step is to remove dust, dirt and stones using a winnowing basket, see Figure 1. This can be done in the same way as for rice. Someone used to this work can remove the dirt, dust and stone quickly and efficiently (they can clean over 100kg of pepper in an eight-hour day).
Figure 1: A cabinet dryer
There are machines that can be bought or made that can remove the dust, dirt and stones. However, for a small-scale unit, winnowing the crop by hand is the most appropriate system.
After winnowing the crop needs to be washed in water, for quantities of up to 50kg a day, all that is needed is two or three 15 litre plastic buckets. The crop should be washed by hand and drained two or three times. For larger quantities a 1m³ sink/basin with a plug hole needs to be constructed. This can be made out of concrete. However, the water must be changed regularly to prevent recontamination by dirty water. Only potable water should be used.
The pepper berries can be blanched before drying by dipping them in boiling water for ten minutes. This accelerates the drying and browning of the berries. However, the fuel costs may be prohibitive.
This is by far the most important section in the process. The inability to adequately dry the produce will, at the very least, slow down the whole process and possibly lead to mould growth. Any pepper with even a trace of mould cannot be used for processing. The sale value of mouldy pepper can be less than 50% the normal value. In extreme cases, the whole crop can be lost. To get the full black colour of dried pepper it needs to be dried in direct sunshine. This can be achieved by sun drying, solar drying or in a combined solar and wood burning drier.
Figure 2: 'Exell Solar Dryer'
During the dry season, sun drying is usually adequate to dry the produce. The simplest and cheapest method is to lay the produce on mats in the sun. However, there are problems associated with this method. Dust and dirt are blown onto the crop and unexpected rain storms can re-wet the crop.
A solar dryer avoids these problems. The simplest type is the cabinet solar dryer, see Figure 1, which can be constructed out of locally available materials (eg bamboo, coir fibre or nylon weave).
For larger units (over 30kg/day) an 'Exell Solar Dryer' could be used, see Figure 2. However, the construction costs are greater and a full financial evaluation should therefore be made to ensure that a higher income from better quality spices can justify the additional expense.
During the wet season or times of high humidity, which often coincides with the harvest of the spices, a solar dryer or sun drying can not be used effectively.
An artificial dryer, which uses a cheap energy source is necessary. This may be a wood or husk burning dryer or a combined wood burning and solar dryer. Figures 3-6 show a combined wood burning and solar drier which is based on the McDowell Dryer and has been used in Sri Lanka.
Figure 3: Combination wood and solar dryer, complete with solar cover
Figure 4: Wood burner and chimney
Figure 5: The food trays
Figure 6: The drying cabinet
Care needs to be taken to prevent over drying of the crops which results in the loss of flavour components. A drier operator will soon learn how to assess the moisture content of the crops by hand. The final moisture content should be less than 10% wet basis.
In some cases the crop needs to be graded, eg high quality packaged products.
Pepper is graded by size, colour and relative density. Colour grading will have to be done by hand. Machines can be bought or made that will grade the pepper according to its size or relative density. However, a trained person with a winnowing basket is more appropriate for small-scale production.
Grinding may also add value but must be done carefully as there are difficulties. A whole, intact product can be easily assessed for quality whereas a ground product is more difficult. There is a market resistance to ground produce due to fear of adulteration. This can only be overcome by producing a consistently high quality product and gaining the confidence of customers. There are basically two types of grinders - manual grinders and mechanical grinders. A grinding mill has to be placed in a separate and well-ventilated room because of dust.
Manual grinding mills
There are many manual grinders that could be used to grind pepper.
An experienced operator can grind about 20kg in an eight-hour day. However, this is hard and boring work. A treadle or bicycle could easily be attached to the grinder, making the work easier. With this system one person could grind about 30kg in one day.
Work needs to be done to find out the degree of fineness the consumer wants. The grinding mills then need to be set so that they produce the desired ground product.
For small-scale production (up to 100kg/day, a series of these grinders is all that is needed. For larger scale production units, a mechanical grinder would be required.
Mechanical grinding mills
Horizontal plate, vertical plate or hammer mills are suitable for grinding pepper. A grinding mill has to be placed in a separate and well-ventilated room because of dust.
As above the grinding mill needs to be adjusted so that it grinds the pepper to the desired fineness.
Packaging of pepper especially if it is ground requires polypropylene. Polythene can not be used as the flavour components diffuse through it.
The bags can be sealed simply by folding the polypropylene over a hacksaw blade and drawing it slowly over the flame of a candle. However, this extremely uncomfortable as the hacksaw blade heats up and can burn the hands of the operator. However, this is a very common technique.
A sealing machine will speed this operation up considerably and produce a much tidier finish (which is very important).
The cheapest sealing machines have no timing mechanisms to show when the bag is sealed and they have a tendency to overheat.
Sealing machines with timers are desirable. The machines come in many sizes. For most work an 8 inch (20cm) sealer is sufficient. Eye catching labels should be sealed above the product in a separate compartment and holed so the package can be hung up in the shop.
A well designed and secure store is essential. The optimal conditions for a store are a low temperature, a low humidity and free from pests. The store should be located in a shaded, dry place. To keep humidity as low as possible only fully dried products should be stored in it. The produce should be checked regularly and if it has absorbed too much moisture it should be dried again.
To prevent rodents entering, the roof should be completely sealed. Mosquito netting should be placed over the windows and doors should be close fitting.
moisture content % by weight Max
extraneous matter % by weight Max
lights % by weight Max
pinheads % by weight Max
International Standards Organization
American Spice Trade Association Standards
Other products of pepper
To produce white pepper the pepper berry is not harvested until it is bright red. The red berry is detached from the spike and soaked in gunny bags in a stream for over a week. The water in the stream should be clear to prevent discoloration. After removal the bags are trampled on until the pericarp is removed. The white peppercorns are thoroughly washed and dried.
Decorticated black pepper
This is black pepper that has had its outer skin removed mechanically. It is used as a substitute for white pepper when white pepper is in short supply.
Green pepper is when immature pepper berries are artificially dried or preserved in brine, vinegar or citric acid. They are popular in France.
This is extracted from black pepper by solvent extraction and is used to flavour foods.
Black pepper oil
The pepper is crushed and then undergoes steam distillation.
Pickled green pepper
Immature green pepper is pickled in vinegar or brine. This is very popular in France and West Germany.
Freeze dried green pepper
This is made in West Germany from imported green pepper corns, preserved in brine.
This is when over ripe red pepper berries are preserved in brine, vinegar.
We strive for excellence, investing in and embracing innovation.
Our temperature-controlled, one-of-a-kind packhouse facility is equipped with the latest innovations in fresh produce packing technology.
Our skilled teams pack our peppers into multiple formats to suit customer requirements, using cutting edge automation and smart technology.
We like to challenge the way we do things. Investing in new technologies and innovations helps us to continually improve our products and services.
Dick Houweling, Tangmere Airfield Nurseries Managing Director