Since 1932, a panel of judges has published its list of All American Selections, featuring cultivars not yet released to the public. After extensive testing in a national network of trial grounds, the AAS judges select the best of the bunch for its annual list. If you’re looking for a brand new variety for your garden, you can’t go wrong with their choices.

Out of the fourteen All-American Selection winners for 2020, half of them are tomatoes, reflecting the tomato’s wide popularity in the home garden. Of these 7 varieties, 3 of them have been found to grow well in our entire nation and 2 do particularly well in the Heartland District of the U.S. Although Wisconsin is in the Great Lakes section of the AAS map, we are close enough to the Heartland District that I would feel confident planting these picks.

The trend in homegrown tomatoes is towards different colors and sizes and this year’s winners are proof of that. Two are yellow and one is bicolor. One is shaped like an apple, one is a miniature version of a Roma paste tomato, two are grape or cherry shapes and only three take the standard slicing tomato form. All types can be viewed here https://all-americaselections.org/product-category/year/2020/?product_count=24. Click on the photo and scroll down for extensive descriptions and growing requirements. The ones that have been tested nationally include Apple Yellow, Celano and Early Resilience with Chef’s Choice Bicolor and Galahad being targeted to the Heartland.

Other food winners include Cucumber Green Light which is a mini cucumber. For best flavor and crunch pick when 3-4 inches long. Green Light can be grown anywhere in the nation. Pumpkin fans will appreciate Pumpkin Blue Prince. With a gorgeous white-blue shell and deep orange sweet flesh, this pumpkin has been bred to mature earlier (a plus in our short-seasons), be very decorative and taste delicious. Watermelon wraps up the food choices with Mambo being another one for our cooler and shorter growing seasons. Maturing in just 75 days, Mambo produces 11-lb fruits with sweet crisp flesh. What’s more, it doesn’t tend to overripen in the field if not harvested precisely on time. The AAS Judges agree this is one of the easiest watermelons they’ve grown because of high seed germination and vigorously healthy vines.

Food isn’t the only thing grown in the test gardens. Flowers are important too. This year features a gorgeous Echinacea Sombrero Baja Burgundy with vibrant, deep violet-red blossoms. Proven hardy over 3 successive seasons, this deer-resistant perennial also attracts birds and pollinators. Another winner is Rudbeckia x American Gold Rush. With resistance to septoria leaf spot, its bright, golden-yellow flowers with black centers and arched petals are a cheerful and perky addition to the garden. And its fungal resistance means it won’t turn dark and nasty as some rudbeckias are prone to do.

Nasturtiums could really be classified in the food section as well as the flower section since both leaves and petals are edible. This particular cultivar, Tip Top Rose has shown itself to produce more flowers and ones that stand out from the foliage more than many nasturtiums. With warm bright rose flowers, this one is sure to attract pollinators. Last but not least, the committee chose Coleus Main Street Beale Street. Classified as an ornamental, if you let coleus go to bloom, it is quite attractive to some pollinators. Main Street Beale Street is so fantastic that it is the first-ever coleus to be named an AAS Winner!

Be sure to check out this year’s winners and delve into the past winners as well. https://all-americaselections.org/winners/.

Beverly Carney can be reached at cultivatingcountry@gmail.com.