The lineup of 2018 AAS Winners has been announced, and in the edibles category it includes seven national winners and two 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. For me, it is wonderful to be able to cut through the hype that is often present in seed catalogs and get varieties that have been impartially judged. I grow several AAS Winners in my garden every year, and I always look forward to trying the new winners here at Happy Acres.
American Dream sweet corn, Onyx Red ornamental pepper and Red Racer cocktail tomato were announced as AAS Winners last June. I had the opportunity to grow Red Racer last year as a trial. Harris Seeds and Garden Trends Wholesale were promoting this variety, and made transplants available for garden communicators and the media to try out. I set out my three plants in mid-July and got the first ripe tomatoes in early September. The two ounce fruits form in clusters and the plants were loaded with lots of tomatoes that had a balanced sweet/acid taste and were great on salads.
The latest Winners were announced in November and include six in the edibles category. Asian Delight hybrid pak choi forms small to mid-sized heads with white stems and dark green leaves. The plants have good bolt resistance, and compared favorably with Toy Choi in trials. Heads can be harvested at the baby stage 25 days after setting out, and full-sized ones are ready in 40 days.
Red Ember is a hybrid cayenne pepper with medium sized plants and fruits that mature to the red ripe stage 75 days after setting out. Red Ember was bred by Johnny’s Selected Seeds by crossing a cayenne pepper with a sweet pepper, and is good for fresh uses as well as for drying. The fruits have thick walls and moderately warm heat compared to other cayenne types. It is suitable for container growing as well as in-ground plantings.
Valentine tomato is a hybrid grape tomato with sweet crack-resistant fruits that mature in 55 days. The indeterminate vines should be staked or caged for best results. This is another variety that was bred by Johnny’s, and you can read more about it and the Red Ember pepper in this article on their website. It was a favorite of judges in the trials, and one judge noted “the fruit was attractive, early, good tasting and uniform” while another stated it “takes the stress of late summer and keeps producing.”
Roulette is a hybrid pepper that resembles a habanero in every way except one – it has no heat! The red ripe fruits have a citrusy habanero flavor and each plant produces up to 100 peppers over the course of the growing season. The vigorous Capsicum chinense plants can reach 3.5 feet in height, and one judge wrote “this entry has a beautiful bush type and sturdy plant type perfect for container gardening.”
Mexican Sunrise is a hybrid Hungarian type pepper with fruit that goes from lime green to yellow then onto orange and red as it matures. The thick-walled peppers are medium hot, and can be used for pickling as well as fresh dishes. The plants are compact, reaching just under two feet, and are suitable for container growing.
Chef’s Choice Red hybrid tomato is the fifth addition to the popular Chef’s Choice tomato series. Chef’s Choice Red produces globe shaped beefsteak tomatoes that ripen 80 days after setting out. The 8-ounce fruits are produced on strong indeterminate vines, and have nice acid to sugar balance flavors that are similar to heirloom tomatoes.
I also want to mention a few of the seed grown ornamentals that were 2018 Winners. South Pacific Orange is a canna with a compact habit that is grown from seed rather than tubers. The bloom color is a vivid bright orange, which contrasts nicely with the green foliage. The blooms also attract pollinators, which is an added bonus.
Super Hero Spry is a compact French Marigold with dark maroon lower petals and golden yellow upper petals. The plants are early to bloom and require no deadheading.
And Queeny Lime Orange Zinnia has large, dahlia-like blooms on sturdy compact plants that reach 1.5 to 2 feet in height. The color evolves as the blooms grow, and judges described it as “a showstopper” in the trial gardens. It’s also attractive to pollinators, and makes a long-lasting cut flower.
I hope you have enjoyed this review of the 2018 AAS vegetables winners. All-American Selections has sent me seeds of some of these to trial in our gardens, and I’m looking forward to growing several of them this year. 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.
For more information about AAS Winners check out:
All photos except the Red Racer tomatoes are courtesy of All-America Selections.