I am excited to be growing several of the 2016 AAS National Winners this year. 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 vegetables in trial grounds all over the U.S. and Canada. The AAS winners give gardeners a chance to grow varieties that have proven themselves to perform well when compared to existing cultivars, and usually offer superior flavor, disease resistance and growth habits.
I’ll start with Chef’s Choice Green F1, a green when ripe (GWR) tomato that is the newest addition to the Chef’s Choice series. The fruits of Chef’s Choice Green reach 6-7 inches in size, and begin maturing around 90 days after setting out transplants. The strong indeterminate vines needs staking or caging. For the last two years, Chef’s Choice Orange (a 2014 AAS Winner) has been a standout performer for me here, and I can’t wait to try Chef’s Choice Green. I’m fan of GWR tomatoes in general, and a green slicer will be a nice colorful addition to our summer sandwiches.
Another 2016 winner is Candyland Red, a currant type tomato that produces one-half inch diameter cherry-red tomatoes on indeterminate vines. It’s the first currant type tomato to receive the honor of being selected as an AAS Winner. Last year I grew the o/p Mexico Midget currant tomato that kept us well supplied with tomatoes right up until frost. Candyland Red is listed as being ready to harvest just 55 days after planting. I plan on growing it and Mexico Midget this year, and with any luck we will be snacking on them all season long.
Regular readers will know we love our kale here, and Prizm is a new F1 hybrid that compares favorably to the popular Winterbor and Starbor kale hybrids. Those two reliably overwinter in our climate, and it will be interesting to see how Prizm does here in both spring and fall. The compact plants produce short leaves with ruffled edges, and can be spaced closely together making Prizm a good choice for gardeners with limited space.
My wife and I love kohlrabi about as much as we love kale. Konan is the first kohlrabi to win an AAS award since Grand Duke won in 1979. It reaches 4-6 inches in diameter starting 42 days after setting out transplants. I will add it to my plantings along with the green variety Winner and the Purple Kolibri.
Katarina cabbage is a new F1 hybrid that was notable in trials for its earliness as well as its sweet taste. It’s listed as taking 45 days to maturity from setting out transplants. The compact habit makes Katarina well suited to growing in containers or even in border plantings. The small heads reach 4″ in size, and compare favorably with Gonzalez. I’ll try it in one of my cold frame beds, where space is always at a premium. It should also do well in containers.
There were two hybrid sweet peppers that won awards this year, both bred by Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and both cone shaped and yellow when ripe. Escamillo is the larger of the two, with 6-ounce fruits reaching 8 by 2-1/2 inches in size. It is a yellow version of the red pepper Carmen, which was also bred by Johnny’s and was a 2006 AAS winner.
Cornito Giallo has a similar shape but is a bit smaller, with 5-ounce fruits that get to be 6 by 2 inches in size. Both Cornito Giallo and Escamillo grow on tall plants that are not supposed to require staking. I am looking forward to growing both these peppers this year, and my old favorite Carmen will be back too.
The Pumpkin Pepitas is an aptly named F1 hybrid pumpkin that is grown for its seeds rather than its flesh. It has “naked” seeds that lack the usual tough outer hull, which makes them easier to process and eat. The pumpkins are decorative as well, with green striped orange fruits that reach nine to twelve pounds in size. We eat quite a few pepitas here, and it will be fun to grow this one and see how this C. pepo variety performs for us.
Rounding out the list of 2016 AAS vegetable winners, Delizz Strawberry is an F1 hybrid day-neutral strawberry that starts producing 60 days after setting out transplants. And Mizuna Red Kingdom F1 is a slow-bolting, mild tasting mustard green with reddish-purple leaves.
All photos courtesy of All-America Selections.