Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
Five more new vegetables, including three herbs, have recently been awarded the prestigious All-America Selections (AAS) award. These include a basil, beet, broccoli, chives, and oregano.
Each year, the best of the new seed-grown vegetables are chosen as AAS winners after trials across North America. They must represent either a totally new variety, or one improved in some way over an existing one. This year there are a much larger number than usual of winners—19 vegetables, and with flower winners a total of 25. This is a 75 year record, the last year with so many winners being 1939. Another first is the three organically-grown herbs.
Basil Persian is a new, vigorous variety with later flowers than most others. This is a bonus since basil is grown for leaves not flowers, and when the plant is flowering the leaves may develop a bitter taste. When flowering, though, bees usually flock to it so this makes it a good plant for pollinator-friendly gardens. It also may be known as Thai or sweet basil, and grows about 15 to 18 inches high and wide. It makes an attractive ornamental with silvery green leaves and purplish stems. Figure on about 75 days from sowing seeds to harvesting leaves.
Beet Avalanche is, as you might guess from the name, a beet with white roots. Unlike many beets, this has no earthy taste nor bitterness, but instead is mild and sweet. It is an easy vegetable to grow, and quick, taking only 50 days from sowing seeds to harvesting roots. Avalanche has good resistance to a key leaf spot disease (Cercospora) of beets. You often see this late summer under high temperatures, humidity, and leaves staying wet into the night.
Broccoli Artwork is a new hybrid, often called a sweet stem broccoli. It starts out as the usual heading type but, once harvested, tender and tasty side shoots develop late into the season. This hybrid resists “bolting” (flowering prematurely) during hot weather better than other stem types. Now you can grow this gourmet broccoli from seeds at home, a type only available before in gourmet markets, restaurants, and specialty farm stands. Allow enough time and start seeds indoors early, as it takes 85 days from sowing to first harvest.
Chives Geisha is a garlic chives, with some of this flavor. Leaves are slightly wider, flatter, and more refined-appearing than regular chives. These, along with the white flowers late in the season, make it an attractive ornamental as well as culinary herb. Butterflies like the flowers, too. Use it in stir-fries, soups, as a garnish, or in salads. Figure on about 75 days from sowing seeds to harvesting leaves although, like other chives, you can harvest leaves earlier.
Oregano Cleopatra is a compact, trailing plant (to about 10 inches wide) with silver gray leaves. It is unique from Greek and Italian oreganos, having a mildly spicy, slightly peppermint flavor. This makes it good used in Mediterranean dishes, soups, and sauces. You can dry the leaves for later use, too. If starting these rather than buying plants, sow seeds indoors early as they need 100 days to harvest from sowing.
More All-America Selections, both flowers and vegetables, and seed sources can be found on their website (www.all-americaselections.org).
Distribution of this release is made possible by University of Vermont Extension and New England Grows–a conference providing education for industry professionals and support for Extension’s outreach efforts in horticulture.