Not Eating Your Vegetables? Start Small
Mini-veggies are mighty tasty, and nutritious, too
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You started hearing it as a kid: Eat your vegetables. But if you have a tough time munching through cartloads of carrots or loads of lettuce, here's a tip from Colby Eierman — minimize to supersize!
Colby is the director of gardens for Copia, America's Center for Food, Wine and the Arts, and he knows that mini, or baby, vegetables are tender and flavorful enough for even the pickiest of palates.
The tricky part can be finding baby varieties in the grocery store, so Colby leads you through some tips on growing your own.
"We've got a bed here that's ready to be sowed with our salad mix," Colby says. "I'm going to cut some lines in the dirt, lay some seed out. This'll be our fresh salad greens that we'll harvest as young, tender juveniles."
Colby lays out different varieties of lettuce in blocks that he'll be able to harvest at different stages. And if you plan to harvest any type of vegetable when young, Colby suggests planting densely. You'll need more plants for a good yield.
Colby harvests his lettuce at about six weeks (figure A). "This is a method we call 'cut and come again salad mix.' We cut it and then we get to come back and get a second harvest, maybe another 10 days after our first." Make sure to cut about an inch or two above the soil line so the very youngest leaves can grow for your next batch.
From mini to micro
One great variety to grow the micro way is cilantro (figure C).
Colby prepares a mix of 50 percent perlite and peat moss, to which he adds worm castings. He waters the mixture and lines a tray with it.
Again, Colby sows the seed in dense rows to get the most he can from them (figure D). Then he also makes sure to keep the germinating seeds moist.
Most micro greens are harvested as soon as you see the first true leaves. Because of their size, they're best used as a special touch to a dish. And the varieties of things you can grow micro seem to be endless — everything from cress to beet greens to basil.
Not hot on greens?
If you've got room for mini but you'd like to explore non-green varieties, try a beet. "This is a great variety, called the golden beet, and this is one of my favorites," Colby says.
When it comes to harvest your mini beets, harvest every other beet first. This leaves half of them to grow to full size and increases your yield.
Spring onions are another great crop. Again, plant the onion in double density, and harvest it between the green onion and mature, dried onion phases.
With a potato crop, you can harvest early for your new potatoes and leave the plant to grow.
And they're fun to plant. Prepare your soil with fish bone meal, which has a high level of phosphorous that helps with root development. And when it comes time to plop your seed in the soil, reach for your nearest potato.
Potatoes sprout from the eyes, so it's a good idea to have one or two eyes for each potato section you want. A small potato may be the right size to plant whole; you may want to cut larger potatoes to increase your crop. If you cut some of those potatoes, dip the cut side in ash before dropping them in the ground to prevent decay.
You'll want to give these plants a little more room than your other minis — plant your potatoes about 6 inches apart.