University of Illinois Extension

2012 All-America Selections Vegetable Winners

"Gardeners are always on the lookout for new, interesting and better plant material for their garden," says Greg Stack, U of I horticulturist. While everything labeled new or better may not always be all it is intended to be, there are a few things that catch one's attention of those in horticulture as being something worth trying.

All-America Selections (AAS) is an organization that is on the lookout for new varieties of vegetable and flower introductions and makes selections to be added to their program based upon observations in many of the nationwide AAS trial gardens. After comparing the new varieties to standards in the industry, they come up with a list of new things that have shown their value and merit.

"For 2012, there were two vegetables that were awarded AAS status and based upon observations at the University of Illinois trial garden in Lemont, Illinois that really showed why they were recognized as AAS winners," noted Stack.

Cayenneta Plant

The first vegetable is a pepper called 'Cayennetta.' This pepper grows to about 24 inches tall and 20 inches wide and has a dense canopy of foliage. The fruit produced is outstanding and plentiful and if you are a fan of mildly spicy peppers, this variety is for you. The plants are easy to grow in any full sun location and also do well as ornamental edibles in containers. Fruits are thin, 3-4 inches long and go from a dark shinny green to bright red. The plants are well branched and require no staking. One of its other outstanding qualities is its tolerance to the heat of the summer and cold temperature. This year was the ultimate test. Another good thing about this variety is its dense canopy of foliage that protects the fruit from sun scorch.

Faerie Watermelon

"The other vegetable winner is a watermelon called 'Faerie'. What makes this a standout in the garden is its color and fruit production. 'Faerie' is a non-traditional watermelon; its outside rind color is creamy yellow with thin light green lines. It almost looks like a cantaloupe," says Stack.

Inside, the flesh is a pink-red and is extremely sweet. This melon is perfect for the home gardener, because it only spreads about 8-10 feet. Each fruit is about 8 inches in diameter weighing in at 4-6 pounds. The perfect family-sized ice box melon. Another notable quality is its production. Four plants were planted in the Lemont garden and so far have produced 13 melons. It was rated as being a good producer, fits in a small space and tastes good. The perfect trifecta.

Both of these new vegetable introductions offer something, new, different and unique to the garden and actually deliver on their promise. You might want to include them on your seed shopping list for next season.