Today mini-vegetables are very popular not only as finished products of vegetable departments of hypermarkets. Many gardeners have also paid attention to the original babies and are trying to grow new items on their backyards. Carrots and corn are no bigger than a pinky finger, eggplants are about the size of a tennis ball, tomatoes are the size of currants … What “baby vegetables” should you plant in your garden or windowsill, and are there any advantages in the tiny size of vegetables? Let’s try to figure it out in the article.
Mini vegetables in the garden and windowsill – is it worth growing them?
Benefits of mini vegetables
Vegetable baby boom is a relatively young phenomenon. It all started a few years ago in Japan and, as often happens, quite by accident. Once, marketers noticed that packaged vegetables, cut into slices, are bought much more actively than similar products of the traditional type. But, as you know, cut vegetables and fruits are not able to maintain their presentation for a long time, they also quickly lose some of the nutrients. Then it was decided to place an order for breeders to breed vegetables in portion sizes, and the entrepreneurs’ calculations were justified.
Often, mini-vegetables have not only reduced fruit sizes, but also small dwarf bushes, which makes them convenient for growing in containers on balconies or even outside the windows of city apartments. In addition, certain varieties of “baby vegetables” turn out to be much tastier than their full-size relatives.
Dwarf vegetables are a great way to diversify your kids’ menu and create fun and healthy meals like the Dunno Adventures. With whole-fruit canning, mixes of multi-colored “crumbs” will look much more original than traditional pickles.
Mini vegetables are indispensable when setting a festive table when decorating vegetable and meat dishes, cooking canapes, they are convenient for grilling. But the most important advantage of baby vegetables is the preservation of more vitamins and valuable elements during cooking, since they do not need to be cut into pieces due to the miniature size of the fruit. By the way, the cooking time is also reduced as a result.
Moreover, according to some reports, mini-vegetables initially contain one and a half to two times more nutrients than in fruits of standard sizes.
Next, let’s take a closer look at the most popular mini vegetables that are easy to grow in beds or in containers.
Cherry tomatoes are mini tomatoes, but this variety of tomatoes has become so firmly established in our reality that it has not seemed like something exotic for a long time. So a mini tomato usually means something really tiny, and there are nano varieties.
If most vegetables have a miniature form – the result of complex hybridization, then in tomato it, on the contrary, is a return to forgotten roots. In particular, it has now become possible to purchase the seeds of the progenitor of modern cultivated tomatoes – currant tomato… The size of the fruits of the relict tomato does not exceed the size of the berries of an average black currant, but a lot of brushes on the bush are usually tied even in the most “not tomato year”.
Of course, harvesting such a crop is much more difficult than picking large tomatoes, but still such toy tomatoes have their own special charm. Mini tomatoes serve as an original decoration of the festive table, surprise guests and are very popular with children.
In addition, the wild crop has many advantages over the pampered varietal tomatoes. Currant-leaved tomato requires minimal maintenance and grows well on almost any soil, steadfastly enduring negative environmental conditions (dampness, drought). It is practically not affected by the scourge of all tomatoes – late blight.
Elegant bushes with small carved foliage, strewn with abundant small fruits, like a garland, will be a wonderful decoration for the garden. The plant need not be pinned and then its height will not exceed one meter. Currant tomato bears fruit before frost. And due to the fact that the berries do not crumble, you can take your time with the harvest.
An even more original variety of wild tomato is tomato “Gold Rush”, which differs from currant tomato only in the yellow color of the fruit and will look great paired with red-fruited.
“Toy” cobs of pickled mini-corn are very often found in supermarkets among jars of overseas pickles. Why not try growing the original corncobs yourself?
The most widespread variety of unusual vegetables is “Minigold”. The miniature variety is suitable even for regions with short summers, as the tiny ears are usually harvested slightly unripe. They are ready for harvesting already 12-17 weeks after sowing seeds in the ground.
The miniature nibs are very delicate and tasty, so they can be eaten whole even raw, avoiding the lengthy boiling process required for regular corn. But most often, small fruits are used for pickling, freezing and grilling, used in vegetable stews, capapés, or added to soup.
The farming technique of mini-maize is no different from the cultivation of its full-size cousin. Sowing seeds is carried out immediately to a permanent place in mid-late May.
Despite the fact that the cobs of dwarf corn do not exceed 10-12 centimeters in length and 2-3 cm in diameter, the stems of the Minigold variety have a standard height of more than 1,5 meters, so you will need to allocate enough space to grow it. The location should be sunny and the soil fertile enough. The culture does not require special care.
Traditional eggplant weighs 300-400 grams and has a classic dark purple rind color. But the fruits of mini-eggplant are distinguished not only by their smaller size, but also by the rich color of the fruits.
For example, eggplant “Mantle of the King”, or “Tigrenok”… Its original fruits are distinguished by an unusual color – brown stripes on an orange background. An additional attractiveness to the variety is given by the simultaneous presence of flowering inflorescences, unripe ovaries and fully ripe fruits on the bush.
An unusual elegant variety is successfully used in cooking, however, for this purpose it is recommended to pluck unripe yellowish eggplants, since fully ripe seeds become tough.
Eggplant “Turkish Orange” also characterized by the presence of unusual stripes, but in shape its rounded fruits are more reminiscent of red-orange tomatoes. The average weight of the fruit is 100 grams. This variety is also best consumed unripe, its flesh is sweeter and more tender and slightly resembles tomato.
Both varieties can be grown in containers, but they are large enough to take up a lot of space. And here mini eggplant “Ophelia” can be called a truly balcony variety, since it has not only small fruits, but also compact low bushes 30-40 centimeters high. The fruits of this hybrid are dark purple in color and have a classic shape.
Looks no less original and mini eggplant “Bambi F1”… Rounded pure white fruits of this variety are tied even in low light. The size of the fruit is 5 cm, and the average weight is 50-70 grams. Varieties and hybrids of mini-eggplants are recommended for container gardening, can be grown on balconies, window sills, in winter gardens and greenhouses.
Note: most miniature eggplants are eaten on a par with their larger counterparts. The only exception is the variety “Chinese Lantern” with original ribbed fruits, which, unfortunately, are completely inedible.
In their homeland, hot peppers are real trees 3-4 meters high, but when breeding cultivated varieties, breeders strove to obtain undersized compact bushes. Currently, there are a huge number of varieties and hybrids of dwarf peppers, which are often referred to as decorative, but nothing prevents the use of small pods in cooking.
One of the most impressive varieties of dwarf hot peppers is a hybrid Explosive Ember… In a well-lit place, its foliage takes on a very beautiful purple hue, and the cone-shaped fruits constantly change color as they approach biological maturity. So on the plant, you can see peppers of four colors at the same time: red, purple, orange and yellowish-purple. This variety has incredible pungency and one tiny pod is enough to add flavor to a large pot of borscht.
Pepper «Medusa»on the contrary, it belongs to the weakest varieties of dwarf hot pepper, its multi-colored pods can be eaten fresh, and used to decorate salads.
Read more about growing decorative hot peppers in the article Indoor hot peppers – varieties and cultivation features.
Dwarf varieties are also found among the sweet “bell peppers”. The most popular variety of dwarf peppers “Minibell” (Mini Bell)combining fruits of red, yellow, orange and chocolate color. Of course, these peppers are not thick enough, however, they also have culinary uses, for example, for stuffing raw cheese filling.
They also look great in containers and can be grown on windowsills, terraces and balconies. Other interesting varieties of sweet mini peppers: “Dwarf”, “The theme”, “Lipstick”, “Sun” etc.
Read more about growing sweet peppers in indoor conditions in the article Indoor sweet peppers – growing paprika on a windowsill !.
Not all varieties of this vegetable grow fruit the size of a potential carriage for Cinderella. Among the representatives of the pumpkin, you can find very little ones. For example, a charming pumpkin “Baby Boo” (Baby Boo) has a weight of 150 to 300 grams. The ribbed snow-white fruits of this crumb are mainly used to decorate interiors, since they have an inexpressive taste.
Here comes the mini pumpkin “Sweet chestnut”, also not exceeding 200-300 grams, can compete in taste with the most popular large-fruited sisters. The word “chestnut” is included in the name of the variety, not only in connection with the tiny size of the fruit. The flesh of this pumpkin is quite unusual (starchy, crumbly and very sweet with a slight nutty flavor) and tastes like roasted chestnuts. The peel has a dark green color with longitudinal brown stripes; during storage, the main tone turns brown.
By the way, this baby has a double – Japanese pumpkin “Naguri”, which has an absolutely identical pulp in structure, appearance and taste, but grows a little larger, although it also belongs to portioned (up to 1,3 kg).
Due to their very sweet taste and starchy consistency, the main field of application for both varieties is the preparation of various desserts. In particular, due to the lack of a specific pumpkin taste and smell, this pumpkin will be an excellent filling for pumpkin pie. Also, mini pumpkins are suitable for cooking candied fruits, baking with various fillings, as well as raw as an ingredient in fruit salads.
Another miniature pumpkin has a slightly larger size – «Dampling Suite» (Sweet Dumpling), the fruits of which can reach 300-400 grams. “Sweet dumpling”, as the name of the variety is translated, is distinguished by its light pulp and is prepared mainly according to potato recipes. Other portioned pumpkin varieties weighing no more than a kilogram: “Acorn”, Ishiki Kuri, «Kamo-Kamo» etc.
Read more about interesting pumpkin varieties in the article Amazing pumpkin varieties – both delicious and beautiful.
The most popular variety of the famous spice is basil with large purple leaves, also known as Yerevan basil. Green-leaved varieties of basil are also distinguished by a rather large leaf blade and high growth.
But not every gardener knows about the existence of a miniature variety of this spice with tiny bushes no more than 15-20 centimeters high. On sale, such miniature varieties can most often be found under the names: Basil “Dwarf”, “Greek” и “Spherical perfume”.
Mini-basil is characterized by dense spherical bushes-bumps with small (up to 1 centimeter) dense foliage, bushes reach a maximum diameter of 30-35 centimeters. The mini-basil bushes branch densely from the very base without additional pinching, and even during flowering retain their spherical shape, because, unlike tall counterparts, its inflorescences do not rise much above the leaves.
The low growth and characteristic habit of the plant makes it an excellent candidate for growing on a kitchen windowsill or balcony. From a distance, dwarf basil vaguely resembles an ornamental shrub – boxwood, therefore, with its participation, you can create an original floral arrangement by planting a spice in the company of bright annuals – petunia, snapdragon, calibrachoa, nemesia and others.
It is best to grow this basil in seedlings by sowing seeds indoors in early to mid April. Seedlings can be dived in small bunches. The seedlings are planted in a permanent place after the threat of recurrent frosts has passed.
With regard to the spicy smell, mini-basil is in no way inferior to its tall counterparts – its leaves exude a strong and rich aroma with mulled wine tones. The spice is widely used in various salads, sandwiches, in the aromatization of drinks, pickles, as well as meat and fish dishes.
Other mini vegetables
Separately, mention should be made of a group of vegetables that belong to the “mini” category rather conditionally, because their small size is not the result of selection work, but simply fruits collected in the phase of milk ripeness. Varieties and hybrids of these vegetables are often sold under the name “mini”, based on the fact that their unripe ovaries are especially tasty in such an unripe form and tend not to outgrow a little longer than other varieties.
These include, in particular, a mini-head bow (“Barletta”, “Pompeii”, “Early bunch”), zucchini («Mini-zucchini», «Patio-star», “Soft Teist”), bunch carrots (“Buchkovaya”, “The Bureau”, “Lagoon”) and a gherkin-type mini cucumber (“Micron”, Filippok, «White Pickle Mini»).