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What Is an AAS Winner?

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By Gwen Nash 

Master Gardener℠ volunteer in Chatham County

“AAS Winner” is a tag you have seen on plants at your favorite nursery or wherever you buy plants. Did you know that AAS (All-America Selections) is the only national, non-profit plant trialing organization in North America? They test new, never-before-sold varieties for home gardeners. For a full season anonymous volunteer horticulture professionals test these new varieties all over North America, and if proven superior garden performance is found all across the United States and Canada they are named National Winners. If they do well only in certain regions, they are named Regional Winners. All AAS Winners are bred and produced without using genetic engineering, thus they are considered non-GMO.

In 1932, W. Ray Hastings proposed the idea of All-America Selections as a way for home gardeners to learn which new varieties are truly improved for vegetables and flowers. Judges look for significantly improved qualities, such as earliness to bloom, disease or pest tolerance, novel colors or flavors, novel flower forms, total yield, the latest flowering or harvest, and overall performance. For the last ten years an entry needs at least two significantly improved qualities to be considered. Only the best become AAS Winners, and once the winners are announced, they are available for sale and distribution.

There are six regions throughout the United States and Canada. They are from east to west: Northeast, Southeast, Great Lakes, Heartland, Mountain/Southwest, and West/Northwest. Of course North Carolina is in the Southeast Region.

All-America Selection Winners for 2020 include ten vegetable winners (seven of which are tomatoes) and four ornamental or flower winners.

  • Cucumber Green Light F1 – is an excellent mini-cucumber with higher yield than comparison varieties, more attractive fruit, earlier maturity, superior eating quality, and they are seedless. This is a National Winner.
  • Pumpkin Blue Prince F1 – scored high for earlier maturity, yield, fruit size, uniformity, color, taste, and texture. Vines produced 7-9 pound blue flattened fruit with non-stringy, deep orange flesh and savory sweetness. Of all varieties trialed it was the first to flower and fruit, with slightly better disease resistance. This is a National Winner.
  • Watermelon Mambo F1 – this melon will grow and yield well even in cool cloudy conditions. Enjoy many perfectly round melons with dark green rinds and deep red flesh, which is sweet and crisp and holds well (doesn’t over-ripen). Each 9-inch fruit will weigh about 11 pounds at maturity, only 75 days from transplant. A smaller seed cavity means you almost get the look of a seedless, but the superior taste of a seeded melon. It has a high seed germination and vigorous, healthy vines. This is a National Winner.
  • Tomato Apple Yellow F1 – is an indeterminate variety with incredible garden performance (up to 1000 fruits per plant) in a uniquely dimpled, apple-shaped fruit with sweet citrusy taste and firm meaty texture. The bright, lemon-yellow color covers the non-splitting, long-holding, good eating quality tomato with a good balance of sugar and acid flesh. This is a National Winner.
  • Tomato Buffalosun F1 – showed better texture, higher yield, and less cracking than the comparisons. This indeterminate tomato is a unique yellow with red/orange flame coloration outside and results in a nicely marbled interior. Good tasting, sweet tender flesh has the look of an heirloom and has late blight resistance. This is NOT a National Winner but is a Southeast Regional Winner, good for North Carolina.
  • Tomato Celano F1 – is a patio-type grape tomato with a bushy habit. This semi-determinate hybrid is an early producer of sweet oblong fruits with excellent late blight resistance. One judge said “Celano is sweeter, the texture is better, the color is deeper, the plants are healthier, and the yield is phenomenal.”  This is a National Winner.
  • Tomato Chef’s Choice Bicolor F1 – is a beautiful ½ pound flattened beefsteak fruit. This is NOT a National Winner or a Southeast Regional Winner, it is only a Heartland Regional Winner.
  • Tomato Crokini F1 – has a very sweet, light acidic taste that gives it the perfect sweet/acid balance. The round fruits are small and firm with a crunchy texture and good flavor and do not crack on the vines. Yields are better because of late blight resistance. This is NOT a National Winner but is a Southeast Regional Winner.
  • Tomato Early Resilience F1 – is a rounded Roma tomato with a deep red interior color, uniform maturity, and quality flesh for canning and cooking. It has a determinate bushy form and is very resistant to blossom end rot. A new standard in Roma tomatoes. This is a National Winner.
  • Tomato Galahad F1 – is a brave new tomato variety. It is a high-yielding, great tasting fruit that grows on a strong, sturdy, late blight resistant vine. This is NOT a National Winner or a Southeast Regional Winner.
  • Coleus Main Street Beale Street – is the first ever coleus named an AAS Winner. It is an outstanding variety exhibiting deep red foliage that holds its color extremely well and doesn’t fade, bleach, or get spotty. It grows uniformly and doesn’t flower until very late in the season, which is a huge bonus. A unique feature is that it is successfully grown from full sun to full shade. This is a National Winner.
  • Echinacea Sombrero Baja Burgundy – has vibrant deep violet-red blossoms that are without equal among coneflowers and is perfect for cut flowers. This variety was trialed over three tough winters and was noted for its hardiness, sturdy branching, and floriferous blooming. This is a National Winner.
  • Nasturtium Tip Top Rose – is a compact plant with unique and showy rose-colored flowers. A winter annual in warm climates and a spring annual in other areas. This is NOT a National Winner or a Southeast Regional Winner.
  • Rudbeckia x American Gold Rush – has bright golden-yellow flowers with black centers and arched petals on a compact, upright dome-shaped form with narrow 2 inch wide hairy foliage, bred to resist Septoria leaf spot. It blooms from July to September, is incredibly easy to grow, and pollinators love it. This is a National Winner.

Descriptions are taken from All-America Selection materials. Images and more details are available via their website.