Mini-veggies are easy to love

  • By Lee Reich Associated Press
  • Thursday, August 25, 2011 12:01am
  • Life

Many gardeners aspire to grow a humongous pumpkin or head of cabbage. And many of the same people are also attracted to miniature vegetables. Witness all those bags of “mini” carrots lined up on market shelves.

Those carrots are just one of many miniature vegetables you can easily grow yourse


Easier to grow
Miniature vegetables are usually easier to grow than full-size ones.

You don’t need to plant a special variety of corn to get baby corn; just pick it this year from a patch intended for full-size ears. All you do is pick the ears just as the silks are showing.

These small ears do give you a lot less to eat, so if you want a lot of baby corn, take steps next year to grow it more efficiently: Grow any multieared variety of sweet corn; plant close, giving each plant about a square foot of space; and plan to grow something else after harvest, because baby corn matures a few weeks earlier than sweet corn.

Besides cuteness, baby corn does have good texture, a trait shared by some other baby vegetables. Baby zucchinis, for example, are much more tender and succulent that their grown-up counterparts.

For some eye appeal, harvest baby zucchinis while their flowers are still attached.

Baby potatoes have skins so tender as to be almost nonexistent. But take note: Baby potatoes have tender skins only if they are truly babies, rather than mature but small potatoes.

Yes, a number of miniature vegetables are not baby vegetables, but vegetables that never get large. Tom Thumb is a buttercrunch type of lettuce that matures to heads the size of tennis balls. Mei Qing Choi is a variety of Chinese cabbage that matures heads a manageable foot high. These varieties never get large.

Force smallness
Some vegetables or vegetable varieties that aren’t normally miniature don’t mind being made so. I set my cabbage plants only a foot apart for just this reason. For even smaller cabbages, grow them in spring and then, in summer when you harvest, cut the head off rather than pull up the whole plant. More than one new head will develop right where you cut. Snap off all but two, three or four of those new, developing heads according to how big you want them to grow.

The British evidently find normal cauliflower heads too large, so they developed what they call mini-caulis. All it takes to grow mini-caulis is to plant them at a 6-by-6-inch spacing. This is an easier way to grow cauliflower, and what you end up with is a single portion.

Not all taste better
What about those baby carrots at the market? If truth be told, they are neither baby nor miniature carrots. Those carrots are full-size, mature carrots that have been washed and trimmed into baby-size pieces.

Don’t feel cheated, though. A miniature variety of carrot, such as Short ‘n’ Sweet, Thumbelina or Kundulus, is not necessarily sweeter or in any way tastier than a variety like Scarlet Nantes, which grows large but tastes good.

Root vegetables must achieve a certain degree of maturity before they’ve accumulated enough sweetness to taste good. No variety of carrot tastes better when harvested young, that is, when it’s still a baby.

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