Gardening New plants Vegetables

The 2021 Veggie of the Year

By Larry Hodgson

Home Depot Canada is announcing a Veggie of the Year for 2021: a sweet pepper called ‘Mocha Swirl’. (They’re offering it as a “snacking pepper”.) It’s available right now in Canada and here’s what I was able to find out about it.

‘Mocha Swirl’ is a variegated edible sweet pepper (Capsicum annuum). Both the leaves and the fruit are variegated (bicolored). The leaves of the compact plant are marbled white and the long fruits are striped green and white when immature, turning to chocolate brown with red and pink stripes as they reach maturity. It will make a stunning addition to a container, a vegetable garden or your edible landscaping, both in leaf and in fruit.

Mocha Swirl peppers at maturity.
Mocha Swirl peppers reaching maturity.

Of course, you won’t be growing this vegetable for its looks alone, so it’s nice to know that the 4-4.5 in x 1.5-2 in (10-11.5 cm x 3.8-5 cm) fruits have an exceptionally sweet flavour, perfect for fresh snacking. After planting them outdoors, expect the first fruits to be ready to harvest in about 60 days (green/white stage) to 80 days (chocolate/red stage).

Plant your ‘Mocha Swirl’ plant in full sun (it will grow in partial shade, but won’t produce as abundantly) and rich, well-drained soil in a container or a vegetable bed. It likes warmth, so don’t put it out until both the air and the soil have fully warmed up. Over the summer, water thoroughly as needed, whenever the soil starts to dry out. Add a slow-release fertiliser at planting time, according to the instructions on the product’s label. Also, you may feel the need to fertilize lightly through the summer, especially if you grow it in a container where leaching of minerals is often a problem, with seaweed fertilizer or hydrolyzed fish. 

Mocha Swirl peppers in a colander.
‘Mocha Swirl’ peppers are as tasty as they look!

Your ‘Mocha Swirl’ pepper will self-pollinate, so can be grown on its own in isolation from other peppers: on your 10th-floor balcony, for example. All it needs to produce a fruit is a bit of buzz pollination from a bumblebee or some movement due to wind to knock the pollen free of the anthers so it can fall on the stigma.

As with any pepper, you get to choose whether you want to harvest the fruits green when their flavor is stronger or wait until they mature fully and become sweeter and more readily digestible.

Extend the Beauty!

Consider bringing this plant indoors in the fall as a temporary ornamental/edible houseplant. Do so before nights become cool and it will keep on growing indoors, with immature fruits continuing their growth and new flowers and fruits appearing. You’ll need full sun for this and you’ll probably find you’ll reach a stage when the decreasing winter sun just isn’t enough to keep the plant happy any more, but you ought to be able to maintain it in good condition until at least Christmas.

Where to Find It

The ‘Mocha Swirl’ pepper is presently exclusive to Home Depot stores in Canada. Apparently, it will be released in 2022 in the United States under the Burpee label. I’m not sure when it will be available for the rest of the world.

Photos offered by Home Depot Canada

15 comments on “The 2021 Veggie of the Year

  1. I should have researched the mocha swirl sooner than half way into the season; first I thought I’d given a bit too much fertilizer at outdoor transplant time. Then I assumed there was insect damage, moved it away from other 3 container peppers, picked the whitest leaves off and sprayed the heck out of it with insecticidal soap. Plant continued healthily and peppers started growing. Concluded it was an odd phenomena, including no colour change. A few days ago I was at HD’s competitor where they have raised beds sponsored by local businesses. One had a whole bed of these. All plants were half the size of my single plant but all fruits were changing colour due to the 400 m elevation difference. When I saw the white-streaked leaves….
    I don’t like green peppers but picked off a damaged one – very sweet!
    Has anyone pickled them? If so, recipe please.

  2. Your the beest

  3. Gilles Raymond Bray

    My wife purchased 1 mocha swirl plant at Home Depot in June 2021. She planted it in a raised garden and it grew about 2 feet tall. It produced several, beautiful and delicious peppers. For MAY 2022? She will definitely get more than one plant.

  4. I was tempted to buy these, however there is no description anywhere whether these are sweet or have a bit of heat to them. We have Candy cane peppers growing, and it’s hard to see any difference between these peppers. Though candy canes can have variable heat levels, ranging from mildly hot to sweet.

    • Actually, the article mentions that they are sweet peppers in the very first sentence. If you’re talking about the label on the plant, though, that is quite possible. I haven’t seen it.

      • I’ve just harvested some of these peppers, and they are the sweetest peppers I have ever eaten (ate them raw). Really glad to have had them on my balcony this summer.

  5. Ooooh I just bought myself a Mocha Swirl Peppers plant at Home Depot, and after planting it for a few weeks I am excited to see it grow! Looking forward to when it fully develops.

  6. tonytomeo, here in South Carolina, my first brush with rhubarb was a Nurseryman who grew one in the shade. It was red stalks with big green leaves. I ask him what it was for, he said people eat the stake, but he had it because he like the looks of it.
    I like that it is a perennial & will be around for years.

  7. Vegetable of the Year is a delightful concept, but this variety is rather specific. I suppose that if plain and simple vegetables were designated (without variety designation) such as simple ‘pepper’, the tradition could not last for long before some of the vegetables would need to be recycled. It would be even more restrictive if only vegetative vegetables qualified. Alternatively, obscure and unfamiliar vegetables would need to be designated.
    Is rhubarb considered to be a vegetable? I suspect that, culinarily, it is classified as a fruit.

    • Rhubarb is a vegetable, but it is often cooked, sweetened and combined with other fruits as a dessert. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your rhubarb this season. Rhubarb is a perennial plant that has stalks similar to celery.Apr 28, 2018

      • Oh, I have NO problem getting the most out of my rhubarb! I could grow more, and likely will as it migrates into new territory. I got this rhubarb from my great grandfather before I was in kindergarten, and have taken it with me to new homes since then. I do not use recipes because most require mixing it with fruits like apple or strawberry. I can not imagine wasting space within an otherwise excellent rhubarb pie on something as worthless as strawberry!

  8. WOW, I will have to try it, put color in my salad, Thanks.

  9. Well done! But I don’t like peppers so much…

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