The Truth About Baby Vegetables

Baby carrotsBaby carrots

Photo: Flickr user ilovebutter

Baby vegetables are popping up everywhere these days: from salads and sautés to entrees and appetizers.”I am a sucker for tiny vegetables. I swoon when the adjective ‘baby’ precedes the name of any vegetable at my farmers market,” Jameson Fink of Foodista writes.

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The love is there, but the mystery remains: What are they really? Where did they come from?

As far as I’ve found, there are a few options for what a “baby vegetable” is:

  1. It’s an actually young vegetable.
  2. It’s a dwarf version (a mutant that just doesn’t grow as large) of a vegetable.
  3. It’s a hybrid of different species.
  4. Something else…

We think that something that’s supposed to be a “baby” should be young and tender but dwarf versions and hybrids will often end up just as tough and not nearly as sweet as a true baby. And guess what? They are often much more expensive than their “adult” counterparts.

Seedless, finger or ladies' avocados, are also known as cocktail avocados, Cukes, or avocaditos. They are the seedless, pickle-shaped avocado fruits grown from improperly pollinated flowers (as the one in this image seems to be).

Baby artichokes are just like regular artichokes and they are picked at the same time. The reason they are smaller lies in where they were grown: In the shade. These babies don't get as much sun as their siblings, stunting their growth.

These microgreens are young ones too. They are plucked early, when they are more tender. A recent study in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry actually showed that they contain more nutrients than their older counterparts.

Baby zucchini and squash are also actual babies. They are plucked before they get too big, and are usually sweeter than their adult counterparts. They also come in a type called baby scaloppini – which is a hybrid between scallop and zucchini.

Baby onions, often called pearl onions, are immature onions that are picked early. They stay small because farmers plant the onions really close together so they run out of space to grow.

These fennel plants are true babies; they are the immature versions of regular fennel. It still has the black licorice taste of the adult version, but tends to be milder.

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