Imagine the fun of growing ripe, red tomatoes that are no bigger than a pea; crisp, flavorful heads of lettuce smaller than a baseball; and fully mature orange pumpkins that will fit in the palm of your hand. Welcome to the world of baby vegetables.
Once thought of as novelties, these tiny treasures are becoming increasingly popular with many gardeners. Usually the entire plant is dwarf, making baby vegetables ideal where growing space is limited. Since most mature more quickly than standard-size veggies, these miniature models are a perfect choice for areas with short growing seasons.
- Cherry tomatoes such as 'Tiny Tim' have always been a garden favorite.
- 'Sweet Baby Girl Hybrid' bears long clusters of bright-red, super-sweet fruit on plants that are half the size of other cherry tomatoes.
- Perhaps the smallest tomato in the world is 'Micro Tom'. This plant is less than eight inches tall, yet it yields a seemingly endless supply of deep-red fruit about the size of salad croutons. Grow some in a windowsill for year-round flavor and enjoyment.
- 'Bonus' baby sweet corn is ready to be picked in as few as 35 days. This little sweetie produces two- to four-inch-long ears that are just right for pickling or stir-fries. Or, serve them up in a salad with "fingerling" salad potatoes. These scaled-down spuds are only one inch in diameter and just two to four inches long. They are delicious boiled or fried with the skins left on.
Baby Root Crops
These little underground crops are quick to mature in the spring and fare well even in rocky or shallow soil.
- 'Little Finger' baby carrots are just three to five inches long. Their bright, golden-orange color is sure to dress up any hors d'oeuvre tray or salad bowl.
- A little beet with big appeal is the deep-red 'Pronto Baby'. Only the size of a Ping-Pong ball, this beet is a natural for pickling or steaming whole.
Just about any vegetable can be found in miniature--even watermelons and Hubbard squash. Tiny varieties are fun to grow and serve, and their novelty may even be a way to get your children to enjoy vegetables. Of course, when they ask where those ears of baby corn came from, be sure to say: "The stalk brought them."