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.
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.
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