The lineup of 2017 AAS Winners has been announced, and in the edibles category so far 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. 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 grow several AAS Winners in my garden every year, and I always look forward to trying the new winners here at Happy Acres.
There are two tomatoes on the list of 2017 AAS Winners. First up is Chef’s Choice Yellow F1, a Southeast Regional winner and the fourth member of the popular Chef’s Choice series of tomatoes. This one produces 10 ounce yellow-fleshed fruits on 5 foot indeterminate vines that are resistant to a number of common diseases. Chef’s Choice Orange (a 2014 AAS Winner) has been a standout performer for me here since it came out, so I look forward to trying the new addition to the series.
The Patio Choice Yellow F1 tomato is a compact determinate hybrid that produces 1/2 inch yellow cherry tomatoes on plants that only grow 18 inches tall. It’s loaded with the mild flavored fruits, and the short vines make it perfect for containers and hanging baskets. I’d say it’s decorative enough to be used in mixed plantings too.
Pepper Mad Hatter F1 is a hybrid pepper with mild heat and a citrusy sweet taste. It’s a member of the Capsicum baccatum species from South America, and related to the open-pollinated Bishop’s Crown (sometimes called Bishop’s Hat) baccatum pepper. The peppers grow on tall, bushy plants that can reach 3-4 feet in height. I’ve grown Bishop’s Crown before, and it would be interesting to see how this one compares.
Watermelon Mini Love F1 is an ‘icebox’ sized watermelon that grows on compact, space-saving vines. The melons weigh in the 7-9 pound range, and the vines set up to 6 fruit per plant. Mini Love has a high sugar content, and thin but strong rinds that are split and crack resistant.
The next winner is a ‘First in Class’, since the AAS has never before declared a fennel an AAS Winner. Fennel Antares F1 is a Florence type fennel with an edible bulb and decorative edible fronds. This is a multi-purpose plant, also useful as a seed producer and as a host plant for swallowtail caterpillars. The AAS judges found Antares to produce uniform, pure white bulbs with a sweet licorice/anise flavor. I look forward to growing this one in our Wild Garden, where it can feed us as well as the pollinators and butterflies.
Okra Candle Fire F1 is the first AAS okra winner since Cajun Delight won back in 1997. Candle Fire has bright red pods that are round instead of ribbed, and it won high marks from the judges for productivity, taste texture and tenderness. It’s also very ornamental, with the red pods setting on red-stemmed plants that reach 4 feet in height.
Winter Squash Honeybaby F1 produces personal sized butternut squash on compact 2 to 3 foot vines. Each plant produces 8 to 9 fruits that weigh up to a half pound each and have a sweet, nutty flavor. This Heartland Regional winner also has powdery-mildew resistant vines, which should make it more productive in gardens where mildew is a problem.
And last but not least we have Pea Patio Pride, which is a Southeast Regional winner that produces in just 40 days. The peas can be picked young and eaten pod and all, or left to mature as a shelling pea. The compact vines grow 18 to 24 inches tall if supported, or shorter if left to sprawl. This makes it ideal for containers and tubs, where the cool season flowers and peas will make a decorative as well as edible showing.
I hope you have enjoyed this review of the 2017 AAS vegetables winners. 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.
All photos courtesy of All-America Selections.