University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Winter, Spring News Articleline


Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

Each year, the best of the new seed-grown vegetables are chosen as winners by the All-America Selections (AAS) program after trialing across North America.  They must represent either a totally new variety, or one improved in some way over an existing one.  With usually a handful of winners each year, for 2015 there are a whopping 14 vegetables winning the All-America Selections designation. Of these, 4 are regional winners that grew well nationally but performed best in certain regions. 
Basil Dolce Fresca is a Genovese or sweet, Italian-leaf type that reportedly is great for pesto, being both attractive and edible.  It is compact, growing only a foot or so high and wide.  From sowing, figure on 2 months or more until harvesting leaves, or about a month from transplanting started plants. 
Brussels Sprouts Hestia was a winner in the Southwest and Southeast regions, and is only the second ever AAS winner for this vegetable.  It was judged more uniform than similar varieties, and more tolerant of cool temperatures.  The good flavor improves further when temperatures drop into the 30’s.  It reaches 2 feet or more tall. Plant early in the season, as it needs 100 days to harvest from transplanting.
Cucumber Parisian Gherkin was a regional winner in the Northeast and Southwest.  It is a mini or pickling cucumber, but can be used in salads and slaws too.  This is an organic variety, with good disease resistance.  Being semi-vining, it grows well staked in containers or raised beds, or in smaller gardens.  Figure on 50 days from sowing seeds to harvest.
Lettuce Sandy is an oak-leaf type with frilly leaves, making it quite ornamental as well as edible.  It is the first AAS-winning lettuce since 1985.  It has good disease resistance, particularly to powdery mildew, and is slow to bolt (send up flower stalks).  It can be cut early for small, baby leaves (30 days from sowing seeds) or allowed to develop loose salad heads (50 days from sowing).
Pak Choi Bopak was another regional winner for the Northeast, as well as in the Great Lakes and Southwest.  It is the first winner of this vegetable since the AAS program began in 1933.  It matures early (60 days from sowing to harvest).  The tender leaves and sweet stalks are good in salads, Oriental cooking, soups or stews, grilled, or with the stalks used instead of celery sticks for healthy snacking. It can be harvested early, or allowed to grow full size. Try combining this with flowers in patio pots and containers.
There are five pepper AAS winners for 2015.  Pepper Emerald Fire is, as its name indicates, emerald green with hot jalapeno fruits.  The compact plants produce many large fruit, mostly at the same time, good for eating fresh or canning.  Plants have better disease resistance than similar varieties.  From transplanting seedlings, figure on 90 days to harvest.
Pepper Flaming Flare is, as its name indicates, bright red with sweet and hot fruit.  Fruit heat increases later in the season.  It is a Fresno-type chili pepper, good of course for chili, having thinner fruit walls than the jalapeno.  Usually this type grows best in warm and dry climates, but this variety performed well at sites nationwide.
Pepper Hot Sunset was a regional winner in the Southeast, Heartland, and Great Lakes regions.  As its name indicates, it is spicy hot and the banana-shape fruit matures in sunset colors of reds, oranges and yellows.  The large plants (over 2 feet tall) are disease free, and produce fruit through the season, beginning 85 days from transplanting. 
Pepper Pretty N Sweet produces “sweet, multi-colored peppers on a compact 18-inch plant that is attractive to use in ornamental gardens and containers.”  Compared to similar varieties, it was earlier (60 days to harvest from transplanting), more prolific fruiting (weekly harvests possible during peak season), with sweeter taste and thicker fruit walls. 
Pepper Sweet Sunset has, as its name indicates, sweet banana fruit in sunset colors.  It is a winner for the Southeast, Heartland, and West/Northwest regions.  The compact plants don’t need staking, making them good in containers, and they produce many fruit over a short period.  These rated high for taste, and are good fresh, canned or frozen. It requires about 90 days to harvest from transplanting, so plant out early.
Radish Roxanne, as many of the winners this year, is a hybrid.  Its roots are bright red with a white interior.  It lasts well in the garden, and rated high for taste.  Being a small crop (under 10 inches tall), it can be grown in containers at least 4-inches deep.  You may want to make successive sowings, with it only needing about a month from sowing to harvest.
There were two squash AAS winners for 2015.  Squash Bossa Nova is a zucchini with more light and dark green mottled exterior than similar varieties.  This makes the many fruit easier to find when harvesting, which is over a long period—three weeks longer than for similar zucchini.  It is earlier too than most, with harvest beginning 30 to 45 days from sowing seeds. The compact plants have some disease resistance.
Squash Butterscotch is, as you might guess, a butternut type of winter squash.  The small fruit, with very sweet taste, are produced on compact vines.  This makes it good for large containers or small-space gardens.  Figure on 85 days to harvest from transplanting, with 5 to 6 square feet per plant. It resists powdery mildew disease late in the season.   If you want to save heat and energy baking the fruit, pierce the skin then microwave whole for about 12 minutes.  Then cut in half, scoop out the seeds, and it is ready to eat.
Tomato Chef’s Choice Pink is the final AAS vegetable winner for 2015, a winner in the Southeast and Great Lakes regions. As with the other regional winners, they should grow fine in other areas as well.  This tomato produces large, 12- to 14-ounce beefsteak fruit that are sweet and not too acidic—well-balanced.  In addition to eating these fresh, you may stew or can them.  Plants have leaves resembling potatoes, grow into indeterminate vines, and have resistance to several main diseases.  Plant early, especially in the north, as it needs almost 4 months from transplanting to harvest.
More All-America Selections, both flowers and vegetables, can be found on their website ( This includes the four winning flowers for 2015—a salvia, petunia, and two impatiens.   

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