This trial will run for two years, as of December 2011, and is being conducted in Valley Grown Nurseries utilising the easy2grow systems to grow pepper plants in a total of 160 pots.More information
A staple ingredient for thousands of years in Latin American and Southern European cuisine, British pepper growers are now one of the key producers of peppers in the EU, and are leading the way in the development of environmentally friendly and sustainable growing techniques.
The UK has one of the most highly regulated food assurance schemes in the world – monitoring everything from the planting of the very first seedling all the way through to packaging and delivery. So when you buy UK peppers, not only are you reducing the environmental impact of ‘food miles’, you’re also supporting the continued development of sustainable growing methods. So a pat on the back for all of us who buy British!
Most commercially produced peppers are grown out of the soil in hydroponic systems like those pictured on this page. Organic crops are grown in the soil.
Peppers like a warm climate and are sensitive to frost; as such they are usually grown in glasshouses. To produce a good crop, you'll need the temperature to be above 20°C for most of the season, and below about 18°C the plants won't really grow at all. So really, unless you have a heated greenhouse, you won't get peppers like you can buy in the supermarket.
Like their cousins the tomatoes, peppers need a lot of feeding to produce strong plants and lots of fruit.
Peppers grown in UK glasshouses can be harvested from late March to mid November with peak production from June to August. So you can enjoy UK-grown peppers from Spring right through to the end of Autumn. The plants are grown from early December to mid November.
The PTG and its members have been working hard in recent years to embrace more sustainable means of pepper production. Not only are these good for the environment but they also produce better quality fruits, and more of them too! Recent developments include:
Water recirculation systems are now in place in many PTG nurseries – this is a simple system that collects and sterilises the nutrient-rich water which has been used to feed the hungry plants, and puts it back into the system to use again. This reduces the amount of water and fertiliser needed to grow the crop and cuts down on environmental pollution from nutrient run-off too.
Working with electricity providers means the environment benefits, and siting electricity generating stations on pepper growing nurseries means they can use the waste heat and CO2 produced by burning fossil fuels for electricity production to help grow more peppers. Otherwise these bi-products just go to waste. This type of system is referred to as a Combined Heat and Power plant, or CHP, and the use of CHP's allows growers to reduce carbon emissions. A typical CHP will run throughout the day to heat water, which is then used during the night to heat the glasshouses (which don’t need the heat during the day because the sun usually does a good job of keeping them warm). Using CHP means the grower's carbon emissions can be reduced to almost zero, and they can sell electricity whilst reducing our carbon footprint. All clever stuff!
All plants turn carbon dioxide (CO2) into carbohydrates (sugars, starches etc.) when they photosynthesise. By pumping the CO2 made by burning fossil fuels for heating into the glasshouse, pepper growers give the plants more of the gas, so they grow more strongly. Without adding CO2, plants will produce about 50% less than in a CO2-rich glasshouse environment. Mini turbines are also used as an alternative to CHP's with much purer CO2 production.
The next green step is to use waste that would otherwise go to landfill to create our energy. Food (and animal) waste can be digested by bacteria that does not require oxygen to produce methane, CO2 and a small amount of leachate (liquid waste) this is called Anaerobic Digestion (AD). The methane can then be used in the CHP's or mini turbines to replace natural gas, further reducing our carbon footprint.
All of these systems require additional storage tanks that heat up during the day when heat for the glasshouse is not required. The boilers then switch off during the night saving energy and reusing the heat stored in the tanks.
The PTG is currently looking at even more ways to enhance their green credentials including solar panels, wind turbines and using geo thermal heat.
Beneficial insects that predate most, if not all of the major glasshouse pests, reduce the need and reliance for spraying synthetic pesticides. Currently most peppers grown in UK glasshouses are only sprayed with a minimal amount of pesticides. Most growers rely on beneficial insects to control pests like aphid and Thips, and will only resort to pesticides as a last resort.
It’s not always appreciated by the public, but in the 21st century, pepper growers will usually reach for their supply of hoverflies or ladybirds to control pests, before chemical insecticides!
Bio-pesticides are formulated from natural sources, such as bacteria and fungi, but can be sprayed onto the crop with conventional equipment. Bio-pesticides represent the next generation of pest and disease control.
There are a wealth of benefits to using these new forms of pest control - not only are they far less harmful to the environment than chemical pesticides, but studies have shown them to be more effective and economical in the long-term too.
Both sweet and chilli peppers should be clear and shiny to look at, and firm to touch. Avoid peppers with blemishes or wrinkles. Red, yellow and orange bell peppers are sweeter than the green ones, which have a sharper taste due to being less ripe. Purple, brown and black peppers are slightly riper than green ones and are usually at an intermediate stage before they turn red.
To store most fruit and vegetables in the fridge can result in a loss of flavour, but is important for preventing deterioration and increasing the shelf life. To increase their flavour, peppers should therefore be removed from the fridge an hour or two before eating raw. They should also be washed if eating them raw. Peppers can be stored for up to 21 days with little or no deterioration.