The AAS winners for 2011 are generating a lot of buzz as they do every year. There are three new vegetables including two tomatoes ideal for hanging baskets. It should be interesting if they hold up to expectations. I'm skeptical they will be around to stand the test of time based on the performance of prior winners and AAS hype.
Take for instance the AAS winning vegetable for 2010 'Shiney Boy' watermelon. The award is based partly on its "sweet tropical flavor and crisp texture." With 20 lb fruit on 13' vines, AAS claims the vines can be grown vertically on trellis frames. GIVE ME A BREAK. 20 lb fruit grown on a trellis. AAS has a history of overselling its winners. Part of this may explain why so many winners are dumped from seed catalogs within a couple of years.
I believe the AAS program breeds mediocrity by the design of its program. AAS winners are determined based on points scored by AAS judges at trial gardens across the country when compared to the best performing plant already on the market. So a winner could receive high scores in the south but may suck in the Midwest yet become an AAS winner. Making one promise of performance across this great country of ours is flawed and naive.
I did a review of vegetable winners over the last five years and found the only source for nearly all was Park Seed. So while heirloom seed companies' missions are to save valuable genes from extinction, Park Seed's mission must be to keep genes of average performers that the marketplace has already discarded. The irony is the tagline for Park Seed is "Always Dependable."
So unless you see the performance of a variety at a trial ground near you, be very skeptical of AAS' promotion of its winners.". Our closest garden is in Olathe and the public is invited each July to see the trial gardens for yourself. I will promote the date on this site closer to the event.