University of Vermont
Department of Plant and Soil Science

gmg logo   Winter/Spring News Articleline


Dr. Leonard Perry, Horticulture Professor Emeritus
University of Vermont

Each year the best of the new annual flowers and vegetables are judged nationwide, and the winners are given the All-America Selections (AAS) designation.   To be an AAS winner, plants must show improvements over any similar existing cultivars (cultivated varieties).  This year’s seven vegetable winners include a melon, watermelon, sweet pepper, potato, and five tomatoes. Similar to most vegetables, these grow best in full sun (at least six to eight hours direct sun per day), and a well-drained soil (preferably one with lots of organic matter, such as compost).

Orange Silver Wave is an exotic melon, bred in South Korea but which has rated well in trials in this country.  It has five-inch, oval fruits (up to six per plant) that have very sweet orange flesh on the inside, and unique skin color of light green and yellow with darker green markings.  Whether grown in the ground or in a container, a heavy-duty trellis is suggested to keep fruits and plants off the ground, meaning less disease.  In the garden, space plants two feet apart and figure on about 75 days to harvest from sowing seeds, or 45 days from planting small plants (transplants).

Cal Sweet Bush is a compact watermelon, with bushy vines less than two feet long.  Yet it still can produce two or three fruits in the garden, or usually one fruit if grown in a container.  Fruits are round to oval, a foot or less across, and 10 to 12 pounds.  The rind is dark green and mottled, the flesh is bright red.  In the garden, space plants just over one foot apart and figure on about 90 days from sowing to harvest, or 65 days from planting transplants which you started earlier in small peat pots or containers.

Just Sweet is a sweet pepper with shiny and rich yellow, elongated fruits.  They are about three inches long, and with four lobes like a bell pepper, only smaller.  Even though plants can reach three feet high, they are bred to be sturdy, so shouldn’t need staking.  With plants being upright, only spreading about 15 inches wide, you can space them this distance apart.   This makes them good for containers, in addition to gardens.  Since it needs about 120 days from sowing to harvest, in colder climates you may want to start them from transplants.  These take about 75 days from planting out to harvest.

Clancy is the first potato, grown from seeds, to be chosen an AAS winner.  Potatoes are red to rose on the outside, and creamy white to yellow on the inside.  The texture is between  yellow-skinned and russet potatoes, making it great for mashing or boiling.  Fruit are round to oblong, four to five inches long and three to four ounces in weight.  Plant them in containers, or one foot apart in the garden, figuring at least three months from setting out transplants.

Chef’s Choice Black is the sixth in this Chef’s Choice series, a beefsteak type tomato with a mottled outside color of dark red and dark green, and inside flesh color of deep crimson.  The juicy flesh is reported to have a nice, slightly salty flavor.  Plants are vining (indeterminate) to about five feet long, so you’ll need to stake them.  A good season, site, and climate may result in 30 or more of the eight-ounce fruits (five to six inches across) per plant.  Space plants about two feet apart in the garden, and figure on about 95 days from sowing seeds to first harvest, or about 75 days from planting transplants.

Red Torch is a tomato with small, striped and oblong red fruit—about one and a half inch long, and under two-ounce weight each.  It is relatively early fruiting, needing about 70 days from transplanting.  The recommendation is to start this one indoors and grow in small pots, sowing about six weeks before planting outside after the last frost. Space plants about two feet apart in the garden.  The indeterminate plants, growing five or more feet high, will need staking. 

Fire Fly is a new cherry-type tomato, with pale yellow fruits smaller than a cherry tomato but larger than a currant tomato—about one inch across and weighing only about one-half ounce.  Fruits are juicy and super sweet, with a mild acidity.  You should stake or cage the indeterminate plants, which can reach five to six feet high and produce up to 500 or more fruits per plant!  Space plants about two feet apart in the garden, and figure on about 100 days to first harvest from sowing seeds, or 80 days from planting transplants. 

Sparky is a cherry tomato with round, red fruits striped yellow, about one inch across and one ounce in weight.  They’re flavorful and sweet, relatively early to mature (about 70 days from transplanting), and prolific (often 60 or more fruits per plant).  The indeterminate plants reach five to six feet high, so need caging or staking.  Space them about two feet apart in gardens and, if sowing seeds direct to the garden, figure on about 100 days to first harvest.

Mountain Rouge is a new pink addition to the “Mountain” tomato series, resistant to several diseases including late blight.  The beefsteak tomatoes weigh 12 to 14 ounces, on indeterminate plants four to six feet high.  They are said to have an heirloom flavor, a good mix of sugar and acidity.  Plants begin producing in just 73 days from transplanting out young plants, two feet apart, and grow well in cool climates. 

Since most of these new varieties won’t be at garden stores, you’ll need to buy seeds (either locally or from catalogs) and start them yourself.  You can find out more details and photos on these and other past AAS winners, both vegetables and flowers, from the AAS website (

Return to Perry's Perennial Pages: Green Mountain Gardener Articles-- your reliable source of gardening information for over 50 years.