Gardening New plants Vegetables

The 2021 Veggie of the Year

Mocha Swirl peppers in a white bowl

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

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

10 comments on “The 2021 Veggie of the Year

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

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

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  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. 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.

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