John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds
Baby Vegetables: Tiny, Delicious and Adorable
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It’s easy to understand the appeal of a beefy heirloom Tomato or a three-pound head of Cauliflower. But why are we so attracted to Beets the size of a quarter, Carrots no bigger than a pinkie, and Summer Squash that we can eat in a single bite? Maybe it’s the same reason why we love bunnies, babies and bonsai. Scientists call this well documented, but unexplained phenomenon “neoteny.” Humans have a natural attraction to small, juvenile versions of mature specimens.
But baby vegetables have lots more going for them than their irresistible small size. They’re tender, tasty, and bite-size. They’re also kid-sized, and what could be better than vegetables that kids want to eat?
Good Things in Small Packages
Baby vegetables are in high demand by the world’s top chefs, and many boutique farms grow nothing but ‘little’ food. Seed companies have responded to this demand by introducing vegetable varieties that produce smaller versions of full-size favorites. Our Happy Baby Garden is a perfect way to explore this exciting world of baby vegetables. This collection includes different types of small-but-beautiful vegetables at a 10% savings: Kestral Baby Beets, Adelaide Baby Carrots, Sungold Cherry Tomatoes, Little Gem Baby Romaine Lettuce, Lemon Cucumbers, Wee Be Little Pumpkins and Gonzales or Alcosa Baby Cabbages.
Another way to have baby vegetables is to simply harvest them before they are mature. This works perfectly for Potatoes, Summer Squash, Beets, Carrots, Radishes, Beans, Peas, Spinach, Fennel, Cucumbers, Kohlrabi, Turnip, Leeks and Onions. For Greens, Broccoli and Cauliflower, crowding the seedlings into 1/2 to 1/3 of the space they should normally have will encourage them to mature before they reach full size. Harvesting vegetables early and small doesn’t work with everything. Some vegetables need to reach maturity before they acquire their full flavor and texture. For these, you need to plant varieties that are bred to be small, such as Aspabroc Baby Broccoli, Orlando Eggplant, Currant Tomatoes, Pony Watermelon and Sweet Dumpling Winter Squash.
How to Grow Baby Vegetables
Producing a continuous supply of baby vegetables requires a little extra planning because in most cases, you’ll need to make several plantings to maintain a good supply of succulent young produce. When crops go past their prime, remove them from the garden, put them into the compost pile and resow. Make a habit of sowing Spinach and Lettuce seeds every other week from spring through early fall. They’ll be happy growing wherever there’s a foot or two of empty space. Leave room in the garden for successive, multiple plantings of Carrots, Beets, Turnips, Radishes and Kohlrabi (row covers and shade fabrics are very helpful for plantings during the high heat of summer).
Harvesting diminutive pint-sized vegetables requires an eagle eye. Little vegetables grow quickly and are easy to miss. With Cucumbers, Summer Squash and Beans, what was a flower on Sunday may be ready to harvest on Thursday. Beans and Peas may be picked when 3” long. Summer Squash is also typically picked at 2” to 3”. Baby Beets, Turnips and Onions can be harvested when they’re about 1” in diameter. Cauliflower and Broccoli should have fully formed yet tiny, florets. Artichokes can be harvested when only 1” in diameter.
Small Vegetables Make a Big Impression
Want to turn some heads at your next dinner party? Compose a platter of lightly steamed baby vegetables napped in a lemony vinaigrette or a maple-butter glaze. Good candidates include halved fingerling Potatoes, Carrots, Cauliflower florets, pearl Onions, Beans, Peas, Asparagus, and Summer Squash. Roasting or grilling can be equally impressive. Toss any of the above with olive oil, salt and pepper, cover with foil and roast in a 375 degree F oven. Be sure to add some halved baby Beets, Radishes and Turnips.
Jars of pickled baby vegetables are another delight and make great hostess gifts. Combine little Peas and Beans, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Carrots, Asparagus and pearl Onions into a colorful mélange, or pickle each type separately. Blanch them for less than a minute and nestle into pint or quart jars. Beets should be cooked separately until just tender. Add Hot Peppers, Ginger Root, herbs or peeled Garlic cloves to taste. For the brine, combine 1 cup water, 3/4 cup white vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar, ½ tablespoon pickling spice, ½ tablespoon coarse salt and ½ tablespoon whole peppercorns. Bring to a boil, pour over vegetables, cover and refrigerate for 48 hours. Eat within one month (if they can last that long).
We share our best-of-the-best recipes so you can feed your family and friends well without feeling frenzied, and practical, hands-on horticultural tips to demystify gardening with seeds (it need not be tricky or difficult. Truth be told, it is a bit more like easy magic.) If you need help with anything, our office hours are Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (860) 567-6086. Lance Frazon, our seed specialist, is happy to help you in any way possible. He loves to talk seeds.