2022 All-America Selections Winners

The lineup of 2022 AAS Winners has been announced, and in the edibles category it includes five national winners and three regional winners. For those who might not be familiar with it, All-America Selections (AAS) is an independent, non-profit organization that tests new varieties of flowers and edibles in trial grounds all over the U.S. and Canada. I grow quite a few AAS Winners in my garden every year, and I always look forward to trying the new winners here at Happy Acres. There are three tomatoes, one melon, two peppers, one eggplant and one lettuce that made the Winners list for 2022 as well as four ornamentals.

Pink Delicious is a pink beefsteak tomato that promises meaty 11 ounce fruits that are sweet tasting and crack resistant. The judge’s observations included “Definitely a winner for an “heirloom” looking tomato but with all the benefits of a hybrid!” and “What set the entry apart was the excellent flavor.” This one looks to be a good addition to our line up of slicing tomatoes, which includes several AAS Winners from year’s past.

Tomato Pink Delicious

Purple Zebra is a new addition to the world of striped tomatoes. It compared favorably with Black Zebra in the trials. The flavor was described by one judge as “rich, deep-bodied, almost dessert-like.” Sunset Torch is another striped plum tomato that made the 2022 Winner list. It features firm 1 ounce fruits that resist splitting and hold well in the field. The plants are indeterminate and show good disease resistance as well.

Tomato Purple Zebra

Tomato Sunset Torch

I’m especially looking forward to trying the Icicle eggplant, which is a 2022 National Winner. It has white skinned 7 inch long fruits that weigh almost a half pound each.  It compares favorably to Gretel, itself a 2009 AAS Winner and a big favorite of ours. One judge noted “best features of entry are that it has reduced spines, larger size, better fruit shape, and uniformity”. Icicle is also suitable for container growing, which I definitely want to try here.

Eggplant Icicle

Bauer is a new green oakleaf lettuce and another of the National Winners. It compares favorably with Panisse, which is one of my favorites of the oakleaf types. I look forward to growing this one too.

Lettuce Bauer

Buffy is a Capsicum frutescens type pepper like the Tabasco pepper used to make the famous hot sauce. The heat level is listed at 500,000 Scoville units, so this is one for those who like their peppers hot! It’s a National Winner, and the plants get around 28 inches tall and benefit from support.

Pepper Buffy

Sweet pepper Dragonfly is another National Winner with fruits that go from green, to purple, then red when fully ripe. It has thick walls with attractive, 4 lobed fruits that are held high on the upright plants that reach 24-36 inches in height.

Pepper Dragonfly

Century Star watermelon has red-fleshed seedless melons that weigh up to 10 pounds. The vines can grow up to 10 feet or more in length, and the rinds are dark green with yellow spots and resemble the heirloom Moon and Stars variety.

Watermelon Century Star

One non-edible Winner I want to mention is Bee’s Knees Petunia. Yellow is a somewhat uncommon color for petunias, but Bee’s Knees is a 2022 Gold Medal AAS Winner with deep yellow flowers that don’t fade with age. In trials it worked well in mixed containers, hanging baskets and as a long-blooming groundcover.

Petunia Bee’s Knees

For a full list of both present and past winners, visit All-America Selections Winners. Their website also has information on where to Buy AAS Winners.

I hope you have enjoyed this review of a few of the 2020 AAS vegetables winners. For more information about AAS Winners check out:

  1. Growing the 2016 AAS Winners
  2. The 2018 All-America Selections Winners
  3. 2019 All-America Selections Winners
  4. 2020 All-America Selections Winners
  5. My Favorite AAS Veggies

All photos are courtesy of All-America Selections.

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Planning the 2022 Garden

Every year about this time, I usually start to get serious about garden planning. I like to begin ordering seeds about now, and before I can do that I need to do a seed inventory as well as get some ideas about what I want to grow in the coming year. The seed inventory is now completed, and I’ve been working on my 2022 plan for some time already. There are always last-minute changes to my list of course, and sometimes things change even at planting time if I run out of room or lose seedlings for some reason. 2022 looks to be an interesting year for the garden here at Happy Acres for several reasons worth mentioning.

2022 seed catalogs

To backtrack a bit, in 2020 I decided to scale back the garden by 30-40%. I was literally gardening more and enjoying it less, and I am happy to say I was pleased with the 2020 plan and how things turned out. I still spent a lot of time working in the garden, but I enjoyed it quite a bit more than I had in previous years. Last year I planted about the same size area, and we hauled in over 800 pounds of fruit and vegetables. So that part of the plan seems to be working, and I can see me scaling back my plantings more and more as I get older. The 2021 garden kept us well supplied with plenty of food to eat fresh and to preserve for later use.

weed barrier fabric in garden

Last year I also decided to try something new in the garden for mulching – woven weed barrier fabric. The material I’m using is four feet wide, and listed as “professional grade 3.2 oz” material. I have used similar fabric in the past for walkways, but not in the vegetable garden. I tested it on transplants like squash, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, kale and collards. And I also tested it for direct-seeded crops like turnips and bush beans. It did quite well in all applications, and I plan to use it again for 2022. It kept the weeds down, and I should be able to reuse the fabric pieces for several seasons.

squash planted in fabric

One big thing I want to do different this year is to add walkways between my garden beds. Since I have idled 30% of the garden, there is ample room now to establish mulched pathways between the planting areas. That should cut down on soil compaction, as well as make harvesting and other work easier. I will likely put down cardboard on the paths, and cover with straw or another organic material. I don’t plan to make raised beds, just permanent walkways that are kept mulched to keep down weeds and provide a place to walk and work without compacting the planting beds themselves. I’m still working out the exact spacing for this, but I will share details and photos later as I get everything established. I will likely start with the first couple of beds this year and see how it goes.

Another thing I want to do different in 2022 is experiment with no-dig and no-till beds. I am inspired by Lee Reich’s classic 2000 book called Weedless Gardening. Reich’s background as a soil scientist and long-time gardener lends considerable credibility to his methods to have a successful garden without spending a lot of time weeding. I will still have to disturb the soil where I grow sweet potatoes, since I like to hill up the soil into a ridge before planting. Other than that, most of the other edibles we grow should work without tilling or digging. At most, a light raking in of fertilizer or other soil amendments like sulfur will be necessary in most places. As with the walkways, I plan to start with two or three beds this year and see how it goes.

I love to experiment with growing new things, so my growing list is always long. And there are always last-minute changes to my list too. Varieties I am growing for the first time are marked with an *.

Asian Greens: Central Red mizuna, Miz America mizuna, Mizspoona Salad Select,  Violetta pac choi

Basil: Amethyst, Everleaf Emerald Towers, Everleaf Thai Towers*, Profuma di Genova, Siam Queen, Siricusa, Sweet Thai, Thai Lemon

Beans (bush): Derby, Provider, Slenderette

Beans (pole): Bertie Best’s Greasy Bean, Gizzard, Lazy Wife Greasy, North Carolina Long Greasy, NT Half Runner, Pink Tip, Rose*, Turkey Craw, White Greasy*

Broccoli: Apollo, Artwork, Burgundy,  Happy Rich, Santee, Rudolph

Cabbage: Conehead, Green Presto, Minuet (napa),  Tendersweet, Wah Wah Tsai(napa)

Collards:  Alabama Blue, Georgia Blue Stem, Jernigan Yellow Cabbage Collards, McCormack’s Green Glaze, Nancy Malone Wheat Purple,  North Carolina Yellow, Yellow Cabbage Collards,  Whaley’s Favorite Cabbage, White Mountain Cabbage Collards

Cucumber: Corinto, Excelsior, Green Light*, Itachi, Manny, Mini Munch, Nokya,

Eggplant: Annina, Asian Delight, Charming, Dancer, Fairy Tale, Galine, Gretel, Icicle*, Orient Charm, Machiaw, Purple Shine, Nadia

Greens: Apollo arugula, Darkita arugula, Purple Stemmed arugula, Speedy arugula

Kale: Dazzling Blue, Groninger Blue Collard Kale,  True Siberian, Western Front, White Russian, Wild Garden Mix

Kohlrabi: Beas, Kolibri, Kossak, Terek

Lettuce:  Baja, Bauer*, Bergam’s Green, Cavendish, Frisygo, Grazion*, Hampton*, Kiribati, Mirlo, Nancy, Navara, Oscarde, Panisse, Pele, Red Sails, Salanova, Sea of Red, Simpson Elite, Slobolt, Starfighter, Tango, Tendita*

Parsley: Cilician, Giant From Italy, Hungarian Landrace, Splendid

Pepper(hot): Aji Angelo, Aji Delight, Aji Golden, Aji Rico, Biggie Chili, Chili Pie, Early Flame, Flaming Flare, Guajillo, Hernandez, Honeypeno, Malawi Piquante, Minero,  Senorita Jalapeno, Sugar Rush Peach, Tangerine Dream

Pepper (sweet): Carmen, Cornito Arancia, Cornito Giallo, Cornito Rosso, Escamillo, Jimmy Nardello’s, Sweetie Pie

Radish: Alpine, Bora King, Red King 2*, Sweet Baby

Squash(summer): Astia, Clarimore, Dunja, Early Bulam, Green Machine, Hurakan, Mexicana, Tempest, Teot Bat Put, Zephyr

Squash(winter): Centercut, Goldilocks, Honey Bear, Thelma Sanders, Tromba d’Albenga, Turkeyneck

Sweet Potatoes: Beauregard, Bonita, Korean Purple, Murasaki, Purple

Tomatoes: Artisan Seeds Test Varieties, Better Boy, Chef’s Choice Orange, Chef’s Choice Purple, Chef’s Choice Red, Chef’s Choice Yellow, Cherry Bomb, Damsel, Garden Gem, Garden Treasure, Golden Cherrywine*, Granadero, Health Kick, Juliet, Monticello, Pink Cherrywine, Pink Delicious*, Purple Boy*, Purple Zebra*. Sunpeach, Sunset Torch*,  Sun Sugar

Turnips: All-Top, Hakurei, Topper, Turnbroc

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January Garden Tour

Today I want to show what’s growing out in the vegetable garden in early January. So far we have had a fairly mild winter here, with no snow, ample rain and a bit warmer than usual temperatures. With those conditions, the cold hardy vegetables are still going strong in the garden.  A few weeds are growing too, though not enough to get me out there to deal with them. I am in the process of putting away all the folding cages I use for peppers and eggplants, but I have no place to store the larger remesh tomato cages so they stay out in the garden all winter. And I have been spreading a bit of compost on the bed where I plant to grow brassicas this spring.

walking down to the vegetable garden plot

spreading compost on beds

I have quite a few collards planted in two beds, and we have been eating on them for several months now. The plants are holding up well, and should give us greens throughout the winter months. The quality of the leaves will be very much dependent on the weather of course.

collard greens

greens

Several of the cabbage collards are starting to form small heads at the top of the plants. Cabbage collards tend to have somewhat thinner leaves, and have a milder flavor than most other collards. One plant of White Mountain Cabbage has developed variegation on the terminal growth, which is the first time I’ve seen that on this variety. Whaley’s Favorite Cabbage is one I’m growing for the first time, and it is heading up now too.

White Mountain Cabbage collards

Whaley’s Favorite Cabbage collards

I have both turnip greens and turnips planted, and we have been eating them often. They don’t usually make it through the winter here, so I plan to harvest and freeze some of them for later use. I’m growing Topper and All-Top and both are doing quite well.

turnip greens

Turnbroc is a new green I tried this year and it is still going strong too. The plants are not as tall as Topper and All-Top, but the plants are dense with tender and mild tasting leaves.

Turnbroc greens

There are still a few more baby Hakurei turnips to be pulled as well. I sometimes add a few of these baby turnips in with the other turnip greens that I braise. Hakurei is the only turnip I grew for the fall planting.

Hakurei turnips

I’m growing several collards with blue/purple leaves, and they have colored up nicely. I’ve grown Alabama Blue for several years now, and I’m growing another heirloom called Nancy Malone Wheat Purple for the first time. I think both have flavorful and tender leaves, and the purple colors indicate the presence of anthocyanins which add to the already nutritious qualities of collard greens.

Alabama Blue collards

Nancy Malone Wheat Purple collards

I hope you have enjoyed this tour of our garden in January. I hope to be back soon with a look at what I plan to grow here in 2022. And as a reminder, Harvest Monday starts back on February 1.

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Stars of the Garden in 2021 Part 2

I’m back again with the second part of my annual garden review, and I hope you enjoyed reading the first part. Let me start now with another crop that did extremely well this year, and that’s the berries. We have both blueberries and blackberries planted here, and they kept us well supplied with fruit for fresh eating and for freezing for later use. My wife is in charge of the blueberry harvests, and she picked over 22 pounds of them. We enjoy them almost daily when they are in bearing season, and the taste is hard to beat in my opinion. I did the blackberry picking, and our fairly new plantings gave us over 10 pounds of fruit from the thornless canes.

blueberries and blackberries

Another thing that did well was the cucurbit family, including the cucumbers plus both summer and storage type winter squashes. I count the moschata types we use in the green stage (like tromboncino and the Korean avocado squash) along with the tally for summer squashes. I harvested 120 pounds of summer types this year, and I did freeze quite a bit of that for later use in soups and stews. The frozen zucchini even makes its way into smoothies. Tempest remains my favorite yellow squash, and it is both productive for me in the garden and tasty in the kitchen. Last year I grew several zucchinis that did well, including Green Machine, Dunja, Clarimore and Mexicana. I plan to grow them all again next year.

squash and cucumber harvests

I grow the cucumbers in the summer greenhouse, and we use almost all of them for fresh eating. I do add a few of them to ferments, but I rarely make any pickles these days since we don’t really eat them that often. Mini Munch is one of my new favorite cukes, while the dark green Corinto and the white skinned Itachi also do well for me.

squash and Mini Munch cucumbers

I grew two neck pumpkins this year, Turkeyneck and Centercut, and both did quite well. We use the Centercut at both the green and mature stage, while I let the Turkeyneck grow to the mature stage. I also planted Thelma Sanders acorn squash, and Tetra delicata. The 2021 AAS Winner Goldilocks acorn squash was a new favorite for us as well. I have struggled to grow delicata types here for years now, and when I do get them they typically aren’t all that tasty. So, they will not be back in 2022. I harvested 115 pounds of mature winter squash last year in total.

winter squashes

Ample rains make for lush growing greens, and we were well supplied in 2021. The collard greens overwintered nicely without cover, and gave us edible leaves until I pulled the plants in April. I began harvesting from the new plants in October, and with any luck they will give us greens until next spring when they begin flowering again and I pull the plants.

Top Bunch and Jernigan’s Yellow Cabbage collard greens

I grow kale in the fall garden outside, plus I set out a few plants to overwinter in the greenhouse. When spring comes, the kale in the greenhouse begins to flower and gives us lots of tender kale rapini. White Russian is a long-time favorite of mine, and always produces lots of tender green leaves to eat.

kale rapini

White Russian kale

I grew other greens both inside and outside the greenhouse to add color and flavor to salads, soups and stir-fries. Miz America mizuna is a green with dark reddish purple leaves and a mildly spicy taste. It and Central Red mizuna are my two favorites these days for color and because they both do well in containers. I also grew the Red Veined Sorrel for the first time in a container planting, and it did well also.

Red Veined Sorrel and Miz America mizuna

2021 was a year when almost everything we grew did well for us, with one exception. That is the asparagus patch, which has been slowly and steadily declining in production each year. We harvested only 9 pounds of runty spears last year, down from 13 pounds in 2020. Only a few years back we were harvesting 25 to 30 pounds each year, so the decline is obvious. With a bit of sadness, we have decided the yield doesn’t justify the amount of work we put into keeping the patch weeded and mulched, so we will be letting it go back to lawn area next year. We may still get a few spears though, since the roots won’t die off immediately. If we want more asparagus, we can always buy it. I debated about setting out a few new plants, but decided at this point in my gardening life it just wasn’t worth it.

NOTE: Here’s an article from University of Illinois Extension about Growing Asparagus. The varieties we have planted (Jersey Knight, Jersey Giant) are expected to remain productive for 15-20 years. Our patch is 15 years old now, so that explains a lot of the decline.

asparagus

I’ll close this recap with another crop that did very well for us this year. I’ve been growing the Appalachian heirloom pole beans for several years now, and they produce steadily for me for several months to give us an extended harvest throughout the summer and fall months. Lazy Wife Greasy, Turkey Craw, Pink Tip and Non-Tough Half Runner are a few of my favorites. I like to grow a few of the bush types as well for an early harvest, and this year I trialed one called Speedy that lived up to its name and gave us beans 48 days after sowing. I also planted Orient which did well. I harvested over 50 pounds of beans this year, and we ate them fresh all summer and I froze the rest for later use.

Speedy beans

pole bean harvest

I hope you have enjoyed this review of some of the veggies and fruit we grew here in 2021. I’ll be back soon with more adventures from Happy Acres, including my plans for the garden in 2022.

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Stars of the Garden in 2021 Part 1

Once again it’s time for my annual review of what did well in the garden, and what didn’t. I like to start with a recap on the weather, since local conditions certainly have a big influence on home and community gardens everywhere. The amount of rainfall, temperatures, and even the wind can have a big impact.  For instance, in 2020 we got 56 inches of rain, which is more than normal but still less than the 64 inches we got in 2018 which was a record amount and resulted in a lot of issues in the garden. In 2021 so far we have had 44 inches, which is about normal for us. This year the timely rains seemed to help  the veggies more than hurt them, and most of them thrived. That helped me haul in over 800 pounds of produce so far, which is 100 pounds more than last year from the same amount of gardening space.

August harvest

Too much rain causes rotting problems for me with things like tomatoes, peppers and squashes. This year that wasn’t the case, and all of them thrived – especially the tomatoes. So I am calling 2021 the Year of the Tomato here, as we hauled in almost 200 pounds of them in all. Slicing types did especially well, and one new favorite I’ll be growing again is a red striped beefsteak type called Benevento. It’s a new introduction from Artisan Seeds, and I was fortunate to get to try it as soon as seeds were available this year. It has great keeping qualities both on the vine and after harvest, and the flavor is outstanding. Other favorite slicers include Damsel, Garden Treasure and Chef’s Choice Orange which all did well here.

Benevento tomatoes

Benevento tomato

Chef's Choice Orange tomato

Chef’s Choice Orange tomato

The paste tomatoes did extremely well too, and that let me make plenty of sauce for the freezer plus favorites like homemade ketchup. Short vine determinate types like Health Kick were loaded with fruit, and the indeterminate Granadero did well too. I harvested over 30 pounds of Health Kick from my three caged plants, plus almost 15 pounds from 2 caged Granadero plants.

tomatoes for sauce and paste

finished jars of ketchup

In a bumper year like 2021, I like to make tomato paste with some of the harvest. To do that, I blend them up in the blender skins and all, then cook down to a thick sauce. After that I spread the sauce on a dehydrator sheet and dry down to a thick consistency. I usually freeze the paste in ice cube trays which makes it convenient to add to dishes where a little extra tomato flavor is needed. The frozen paste keeps its quality for a couple of years if keep well-sealed, and I usually freeze ours in FoodSaver bags to keep it air-tight until needed.

dehydrating tomato paste

finished tomato paste

While talking about tomatoes, I have to mention one of my all-time favorite tomatoes. Juliet is a multi-use tomato that is somewhere in size between a grape and a Roma type. We use it fresh in salads and salsa, and it is one of my favorites for dehydrating and slow-roasting. I harvested over 40 pounds of Juliet from 4 plants grown in oversized cages, and quite a few of those went into sauces this year. I also trialed a new one called Verona in 2021 that was listed by Johnny’s Selected Seeds as a “larger, more flavorful Juliet type.” I’m not sure it was a taste improvement over Juliet, but I plan to give it another go in 2022. My 2 Verona plants grown in one oversized cage yielded 11 pounds of fruit, so it was fairly productive even if not as much as some of the other paste types I grew.

Juliet tomatoes

It was also a near record year for eggplant here. I thought last year was ‘epic’ when I harvested 33 pounds of them, but this year the total was over 40 pounds! That was helped by planting small fruited varieties like Gretel, Fairy Tale and Patio Baby in containers, which started bearing about a month before the ones planted in-ground. Once they all started bearing, we were well supplied with eggplant all summer long and well into autumn.

eggplant harvests

eggplant harvest

The bountiful harvests made for plenty of meals featuring eggplant sandwiches and casseroles, as well as grilling and roasting them for side dishes. We made Grilled Eggplant Parmesan, served roasted eggplant over polenta, and made my mother’s eggplant casserole she starting making back in the 1970’s. That recipe included ground beef, chopped tomatoes, onions, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese.

eggplant sandwich

Grilled Eggplant Parmesan casserole

Grilled Eggplant Parmesan casserole

Mom’s eggplant casserole

It was a great year for sweet potatoes too, and the harvest totaled 90 pounds of roots from the 24 slips I set out in early June. The potatoes were clean and had no signs of damage from voles or wireworms either. I also saw no signs of scurf, which is a fungal disease that discolors the skin of the roots and was a problem here in past years. I let the sweet potatoes cure in a warm place for several weeks before we began eating them. Now that they have cured, we are enjoying them at every opportunity and we should be well supplied for many months to come.

2021 sweet potato harvest

baked Bonita sweet potato

It was one of the best years for growing peppers in a long time, and the sweet types really did better than usual for me. Cornito Rosso, Cornito Giallo, Carmen and Escamillo are four of my favorite hybrid Italian sweet peppers, while the heirloom Jimmy Nardello is always one of the earliest sweet peppers to ripen for me. Sweetie Pie is a mini bell with ripe red fruit that also did very well this year. I harvested 26 pounds of sweet peppers in all, and we enjoyed them for fresh eating plus I also chopped up some of them and froze for later use.

sweet peppers

I always plant more hot peppers than sweet ones, since I dry a lot of them for chile powder and gochugaru powder to make kimchi. I also ferment quite a few of them for turning into hot sauces. I tend to grow hot peppers with mild heat levels, and Senorita jalapeno, Honeypeno, Aji Rico and Biggie Chile are some of my favorites for fresh use and for hot sauces. I smoked some of them for turning into a smoked chile powder and smoked hot sauce, which is one of my new favorite seasonings. The hot pepper harvest was over 40 pounds this year, which should add a lot of zip to our future meals!

hot pepper harvest

hot peppers for smoking

I decided to break up the report into two parts again this year since I had a lot of veggies I wanted to mention. So I’ll be back soon with Part 2 of the 2021 garden recap!

 

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