Award-winning vegetables

by Erl Svedson

W. Ray Hastings, founder of All-America Selections (AAS;, had an idea in 1932. He proposed a system of trial gardens across North America where breeder would supply seeds of their latest flower and vegetable varieties. Skilled, impartial judges would assess the plants. The first winners were announced in 1933 and, for the first time, home gardeners, farm seed and florist magazine editors had a reliable source of information about the best new varieties. Today, the non-profit continues to test new varieties in about 80 trial gardens in the USA and Canada. This year, they picked six winning vegetables that performed well in all regions.

Sweet corn ‘American Dream’: Very tender and super sweet, this new, early (77 days from planting) bicolour variety ticks all the check boxes. Plant seeds 8 inches apart in early June. One 8-inch cob per plant. Can be eaten fresh, roasted, grilled, frozen or canned.

Pak choi ‘Asian Delight F1’: also known as bok choi, this new compact, small to midsize (5-7 inch head) cultivar is slow to bolt. Mild tasting, leaves are dark green with a tender white rib. Space 8-10 inches apart. From seed, plants are ready to harvest after 30-50 days; from transplants, 25-40 days. For an extended harvest, stagger two or three plantings a week or two apart. Can also be grown in containers.

Cayenne pepper ‘Red Ember F1’: Early to mature, compact (2 feet gall) and prolific (20-50 peppers) this is an ideal hot pepper for us northerners. Peppers are a warm season plants, so start seed indoors in early February and transplant in the garden in early June. Space plants 1-1.5 feet apart in full sun. From transplant, harvest ripe red, sweet and moderately spicy peppers after 75 days. Can also be container grown.

Habanero pepper ‘Roulette F1’: Habanero’s have a reputation for being too hot for mere mortals. But not this one – all the flavour, but no heat. Start seeds in early April (85°F) for transplanting in early June. Space at least about 2 feet apart in full sun. Ready to start harvesting 85 days after transplanting.

Cocktail tomato ‘Red Racer F1’: Small (1.5-inch globe) but with big flavour. Wioth clusters of uniform fruit that ripen together on a compact bush (3 feet tall), it’s ideal for containers and small spaces. Space transplants 2 feet apart in the garden in early June; ready to harvest after 2 months. Suitable for containers.

Grape tomato ‘Valentine F1’: Sweet, prolific and early – exactly what you’d like to have in a salad or snacking tomato. Set transplants 2 feet apart in the garden in early June. An indeterminate type reaching up to 6 feet tall, ‘Valentine’ will need staking. Harvest dark red fruit starting 55 days after transplant. Intermediate resistance to early blight.

In addition to the trial gardens, there are nearly 200 AAS display gardens showcasing some of the latest winners, including one next to the south entrance to the Agriculture Building on the University of Saskatchewan Campus. Put a note in your calendar to visit it this summer.

Erl gardens in Saskatoon and recently started tweeting about it @ErlSv.

This column is provided courtesy of the Saskatchewan Perennial Society (SPS;;;