The hilly terrain, except for the plantations, is heavily forested. It amazes me to learn that up until the mid-1990s (!) the Khmer Rouge (KR) were still nestled into this remote jungle, fighting government forces who, ironically, were members of the KR previously, including their leadership.
I visit the Sothy farm, partly also because it is owned by a German man, married to a Khmer woman. They operate the plantation since some 20 years. During the off-season they employ four to six workers, during harvest, -they also grow durian fruit, Rambutan and Mango, whole villages are asked to come and help.
Pepper fascinates me since I was young, now I know a little more about it.
|Caution! Driver-less train crossing.|
|Young pepper plants|
|The delicious green fruit, unripened|
|Shading made of bamboo|
|The manager. He has a Master's degree in agriculture from a university in Moscow, Russia.|
|Lime tree. Since this is a Eco-Certified organic plantation no insecticides are being used. Lime works as repellent.|
|Black, White, Red|
|Everything done by hand.|
|Bicycle water pump, if the diesel generator fails|
|Solar thermal water system, for showers and pepper washing and boiling.|
|Photovoltaic panels for 12 V generation fed into truck batteries|
|All rain water is being collected and re-used|
|Boiled black pepper dries in the sun.|
|Toilet and shower are outside|
The farm grows the three different types of pepper common in the area: Black, Red and White. Green pepper, that means the fresh, unripened fruit directly from the plant, has such a short shelf life that it needs to be consumed no later than three days of harvest.
Red pepper has a skin, which can be removed by hand. After scraping the skin off, this pepper corn is white in color.
The black pepper is cooked fruit from the plant which subsequently is dried in large baskets in the sun.
The plants can reach a hight up to 10 feet, the lifespan is some 20 years after which new fruit trees are planted. It takes three years before they bear fruit.
All harvesting, sorting, washing is completely done by hand, there are no mechanical devices used at all. Good pepper is expensive, however if you see the hand labor going into the process it is surprising that it doesn't cost ten times as much.
A very pleasant morning in the forest.