Acorn Squash “Goldilocks,” the All American Selections 2021 national winner, is uniformly shaped in a bright orange-gold color that lends itself to both a delicious meal or as an ornamental fall decoration. (Photo courtesy All American Selections)

The All American Selections are seeds and vegetative propagated plants that have been grown nationwide, and the ones that thrived throughout the nation are considered national winners of that specific year, while the ones that have thrived in certain regions such as the Northeast are considered regional winners.
They are grown independently in trail gardens and judged by people who are considered experts in their field.
Also, all of the All American Selections are created without any genetic engineering which is often called genetic modification or GMO.
Each year, the judges choose flowering or vegetable plants that show improved qualities that make them more desirable in the flower gardens or vegetable gardens.
Vegetables are often chosen for insect pest or disease tolerance, better yields or earlier harvest dates.
Flowers are considered for their length of flowering, size of the flowers, novel flower forms or new colors.
In the last 10 years both new flowers and vegetables need to have ‘at least two significantly improved qualities’ to be considered for judging.
The latest 2021 winners includes three new flowers and three new vegetables, with only one earning the title as a national winner.
The winner was picked by knowledgeable judges all across the nation is a lovely and colorful Acorn Squash.
Acorn Squash “Goldilocks” proved to be a very vigorous growing plant that gave high yields of fruit that had a rich and nutty flavor coupled with a high disease tolerance.
This beautiful fruit is uniformly shaped in a bright orange-gold color that lends itself to both a delicious meal or as an ornamental decoration for Halloween or Thanksgiving.
Of all the flowers, Celosia Kelos Candela Pink was chosen as a regional winner, which means that it thrived in many different areas of the country including the Northeast, Southeast, Great Lakes and the Mountain/Southwest areas. Celosia Kelos Candela Pink is only available as a rooted or un-rooted cutting rather than from seed, but when the All American Selection judge calls this plant the ‘Energizer Bunny’ because it kept on blooming all summer long, the extra cost of purchasing this plant is acceptable. The bright pink candle shaped flowers are beautiful in the garden when planted along an edge as a border, in a huge color bock or mass planting, or as an accent plant.
Celosia Kelos Candela Pink also makes an excellent filler plant to an annual planted combination containers.
The fresh flowers can be used in flower arrangements or prepared as a dried flower for future flower uses.
Another Regional All American Selection winner, Zinnia Profusion Red Yellow Bicolor, is also a Gold Medal award winner, a rare award which is only given once or twice a decade and only to flowers or vegetables that have proven to be superior to all others on the market.
All of the Profusion series of Zinnia have foliage that resists two common leaf diseases, many insect pests and repels both rabbits and deer from nibbling on them.
This beautiful All American Selection Red Yellow Bicolor has bright yellow gold petals with a vibrant red center ring.
As with most zinnias, Red Yellow Bicolor will bloom continuously from spring until the first hard frost in the fall.
The newer flowers bloom over top of the older flowers that age into softer shades of apricot, salmon and dusty rose.
With so many colors on one plant, the gardens will always be in color!
The next beautiful Regional All American Selection winner is an herbaceous perennial, Sweet Daisy Birdy Leucanthemum, or Shasta Daisy. Sweet Daisy Birdy has long lasting pure white flowers that bloom earlier than most Shasta Daisies. The white large outer petals are joined by smaller white feathery petals that circle the golden yellow center button, creating a five inch flower.
Sweet Daisy Birdy is a long lived perennial which can be planted in a pollinator’s garden, a moon garden, in containers or in a cutting garden.
Crème Brûlée is an echalion or ‘banana shallot’ and is the first shallot to win the Regional All American Selection.
It starts as a seed that grows into a single center bulb that has a peachy coppery pink outer skin with rose-purple interior.
These eschalions are easy to peel and easy to slice and they mature earlier than most.
The taste when eaten raw is slightly citrusy, and its high sugar profile makes them perfect for caramelizing.
They grow great in a garden and are suitable for containers.
The newest Regional All American Selection jalapeno pepper is Pot-a-peno, which has such a compact growing habit that it is perfect for growing in containers for patio gardens or even in hanging baskets.
Pot-a-peno matures earlier than most jalapeno and sets a lot of fruit that is tasty without too much heat.
When green the fruit has the traditional spicy zip, and when left to mature to a bright red the flavors ripens to a sweet spicy flavor.
The fruit hangs downward on the plants, making harvesting easy and the colors add to the beauty of the plants.
Every year adds more beautiful flowers and vegetables to the All American Select trial gardens that are open for the public to view, helping gardeners decide if they want plants like this year’s winners in their own gardens.
The Eastern Shore is lucky to have an All American Select trial garden at the Parkside High School’s A+ Garden Center in Salisbury.
The trail gardens are planted in large standing containers at the edge of the parking area and in front of the greenhouses that grow these beautiful plants.
(Editor’s Note: Ginny Rosenkranz is a commercial horticulture specialist with the University of Maryland Extension.)