David Prefers Controlled-Climate Farming
Happy Quail Farms is located in a new 28,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art, controlled-.climate structure in the heart of East Palo Alto, a city which once had a reputation for having the highest homicide rate per resident in the U.S. The structure has a retractable roof and shade, which are controlled by computerized environmental sensors monitoring temperature, light, rain and wind and adjust to give the most effective and energy efficient heating, shading and cooling. From this location, David Winsberg produces 20,000 lbs. of sweet peppers, 3,000 lbs. of seedless cucumbers (Mediterranean and standard English varieties) and 6 - 8,000 lbs. of eggplants annually. He has recently added ethnic peppers from Hungary, Spain and the Caribbean and an unusual Japanese ginger called Miyoga. (This ginger is used like a scallion, but with the fragrant, mild spiciness of ginger.) In 2000, he began experimenting with co-planting freesias and tuberoses with the peppers to add their fragrance and beauty to the growing environment and to Happy Quail's product line. Outdoors, he is growing corn, zapallito redondo (an Argentine squash) and Little Gem (a South African squash).
He's a second generation pepper farmer, taking after his father who runs a 600-acre sweet pepper farm in Florida. But unlike his father who farms on open land, David chose to build his farm inside so he could extend the production season and control the growing environment. This enables him to bring sweet peppers to the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market in early May, long before field-grown peppers are ready to harvest.
Sweet, Hot and Colorful Beauties
David grows over 30 varieties of peppers in 7 colors. They are mostly sweet, but he has added a few hot varieties recently. These peppers are among the most beautiful and tastiest at the Market. Growing in a controlled environment, they can ripen slowly, which makes for better-tasting peppers, and they're not subject to the vagaries of Mother Nature to blemish them. He has recently started the first commercial cultivation of Pimiento de Padrón in the U.S. This pepper, from northern Spain, is most commonly fried in olive oil and used for tapas. Other specialties include the Garai Édes Alma (sweet apple pimento) and Bácskai Fehér (a pure white sweet cubanell), both of Hungarian origin, as well as Habaneros and Red and Yellow Manzanas -- only for true hot pepper enthusiasts!
Although he is not organically certified, David uses only biological insects and fungus to control pests and he uses organic compound fertilizers, composted manure, gypsum, lime, wood ash and wood chips to enhance the soil. No nitrate fertilizers are used.
What's in the Color
Most consumers tend to prefer sweet peppers that are young and crisp, characteristics of the green, immature stage of the pepper. Green peppers will turn red, orange or yellow if left on the plant to maturity. But as they mature, the peppers also begin to soften and to lose some of their crispness. This color cycle means that early in the season (May - July), you're likely to find mostly green peppers on the market. Later in the season (August - October), you'll find more mature peppers in their red, orange or yellow phase. Whether the peppers turn red or orange or yellow at maturity depends on the variety, according to David.
To get the right balance of color and crispness throughout the season, David brings most of his peppers to the Market when they are just beginning to lose their green color. At that point, they're still crisp and you can count on them developing beautifully vibrant colors a few days after you bring them home, as long as they're kept over 50º F.
Happy Quail's Farmers' Market Season
Although Happy Quail Farms is most known for early-season sweet peppers, David also brings seedless, burpless cucumbers and deep purple eggplant to 9 farmers' markets around the Bay Area, including the Saturday Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market throughout the growing season:
|Sweet Peppers||April - November|
|Cucumbers||April - November|
|Eggplant||June - November|
Honey and Beeswax Products
David shares his stand at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market with his business partner, who is also a beekeeper. So every other Saturday, you can also buy unfiltered, unheated honey and beeswax products at the Happy Quail Farms stand.
October 1996; updated September 2000.
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