Feisty Pickled Peppers From Austin’s Flat Brim Farmer

We talk to Trey Gonzalez from the Austin-based Flat Brim Farmer operation about his journey to pickling success and his love for habaneros, jalapeños and more.

by Phillip Mlynar
PHOTO: Flat Brim Farmer

“I’ve seen my pickles used to add a tangy or sweet flavor to a charcuterie board, chopped up in a creamy dip, chicken salad, tuna salad, dill pickle pizza or wrapped in bacon and grilled,” says Trey Gonzalez, who runs the Flat Brim Farmer pickling emporium in Austin, Texas.

Focusing on a range of pickles, peppers and jams, Gonzalez’s offerings mingle hot honey habaneros next to amped up jalapeños, all fronted up by pop art-influenced packaging.

Running through creative ways to incorporate pickles into mealtimes, Gonzalez adds, “The brine makes a nice marinade for chicken wings or to add some zip to a margarita, Mexican martini or my favorite, michelada.”

Taking a minute out from pickling duties, we spoke to Gonzalez about his family farming roots and the current roster of peppers. We also got the scoop on a little something he calls Mexican candy corns.

A Family Farming Journey

Gonzalez’s path to launching Flat Brim Farmer has deep family roots.

He recalls his mom’s father being a sheriff who ran a local farm market on the side. After retirement, he hauled produce from South Texas to wholesale markets in Houston.

When Gonzalez’s own father retired, he pursued a dream of working on land he owned, ultimately focusing on hay and produce.

“This is where the love of growing produce started for me,” recalls Gonzalez. “Fast forward 40 years. I’m right back doing what both grandfathers did for a living, just on a smaller scale.”

Preparing for Jalapeños

Similarly, the decision to make jalapeños a key part of Flat Brim Farmer came from Gonzalez’s family roots. Both of Gonzalez’s grandparents made salsas and his great-grandmother loved to can.

“As I grew older and got more into growing my own produce, I thought I’d do something that would combine both of my family’s interests but not salsa,” explains Gonzalez.

“My own vegetable plants were producing so much, especially cucumbers. I thought I would experiment with pickling spicy flavored cucumbers and jalapeños.”

Read more: Check out this video to learn more about growing your own chili peppers.

The Flat Brim Collection

When it comes to Gonzalez’s favorite chili peppers, he holds up a list including jalapeños, serrano, habanero, tabasco and occasionally Carolina reaper varieties.

“I have outgrown my space to grow much of what we use, so we also locally source,” he adds. “I’m very particular about who we source from. We grow organic, and we only buy from farmers who practice similar methods.”

Embracing the Austin Heat

Farming in Austin means Gonzalez deals with two growing seasons for cucumbers, plus decent summer and fall seasons for peppers.

“They like the heat,” he says. “The keys to keeping it successful for me in our zone starts with quality soil, an organic fertilizer program and using companion planting methods. This will help attract beneficial insects with minimal needs of insecticides and assist with pollination and create a natural defense.”

Gonzalez also adds that with “a good organic fertilizer program you help reduce plant stress from the heat and help reduce water consumption.”

Read more: Bring the heat to your garden with these super hot peppers!

Spotlight on Mexican Candy Corns

Gonzalez has playfully dubbed his orange habanero peppers as Mexican candy corns. It turns out, the name came about after a group of neighborhood kids rode by his garden on their bikes. They asked about the eye-popping flame orange crops.

“I said jokingly, Mexican candy corns,” he recalls. “It stuck. Still today the kids ask if I have any Mexican candy corn. Not to worry, I didn’t give them any. And I did educate them on the spicy pepper and its many uses.”

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