You never outgrow baby vegetables: miniature carrots, melons, peppers, and other pint-sized vegetables are cute, sweet, and easy to grow.
Baby vegetables of all kinds have earned their places at summer picnics, where they are just the thing for grilling without chopping, and for snacks. TheyÕre a gourmetÕs delight on a dinner plate, and they charm children, of course Ñ but midget vegetables are an unexpectedly fascinating crop. Many of them grow on relatively small plants, so they can easily be grown in pots.
Some crops, such as cucumbers and many root vegetables, can be picked at any stage of their growth. Tiny radishes, no bigger than a marble, are delightful in salads. Zucchini and beets can also be picked when theyÕre quite small, but miniature varieties never get very large at all. ÔEight BallÕ is an irresistible round mini zucchini; ÔLittle ChicagoÕ beets grow to scarcely to the size of a golf ball, perfect for pickling or for salads. ÔPeter PanÕ pattypan squash are only two-three inches across: they are great on the grill.
You can find miniature varieties of just about any vegetable you can think of: prolific, sweet cherry tomatoes (round, grape, or pear-shaped) come to mind, but bok choi ÔToy ChoiÕ only grows to about five inches tall: each plant is a single delicious serving. ÔCaracas HybridÕ carrots are sweet and delicious, and theyÕre only three inches long Ñ you can eat a whole bunch. Snack-sized ÔGolden Baby BelleÕ peppers can be picked when theyÕre just an inch long; theyÕre cocktail-party peppers.
ÔSugar BabyÕ watermelons are eight inches across, and ÔBaby BearÕ pumpkins are kid-sized versions of jack oÕlanterns.
Miniature vegetables are a good fit for small gardens because the plants can be spaced a little closer than their full-sized relatives. TheyÕre great in pots, too. Baby carrots or bok choi can be grown in a window box. ÔBaby BubbaÕ okra is a small plant and looks pretty on a patio, but it eventually produces full-sized pods. You can let the pods mature at four inches long (itÕs a quick crop, just 53 days from seed), or pick the okras when theyÕre just half-sized; at only two inches, youÕll find theyÕre full of flavor.