Mini or baby vegetables grace the plates of diners in the most elite restaurants. These tiny fruits provide delicate flavor and tender flesh. Vegetables harvested when very young, often referred to as baby vegetables, are identical to full-grown fruits other than in size. Some, however, are grown from hybrid varieties genetically designed to produce miniature vegetables. Techniques used to produce baby or miniature vegetables vary slightly from traditional cultivation.
Select miniature varieties of the desired vegetables or plant full-sized plants with the intention of harvesting fruit when immature. Common mini-vegetables bred to reach a small size include carrots, beans, cauliflower, eggplant, squash, turnip, beets, lettuce, tomatoes and pumpkin. Zucchini, cucumbers, potatoes, peas, and corn are typically grown from full-sized vegetables, harvested at the immature stage and presented as baby vegetables.
Prepare soil in an area that receives at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day. Till to a depth of 8 to 10 inches to allow adequate root development. Remove rocks, roots and other debris and rake the area smooth.
Test the soil to determine the condition of the soil. Inexpensive soil test kits provide a quick analysis of the soil and are suitable for established gardens that may require minor adjustments to the soil. For a more thorough analysis, contact your local cooperative extension office and follow the directions for taking a soil test. The analysis includes a written summary of your soil with recommendations for amending the soil to adjust pH and balance nutrients. Follow the recommendations for amending soil.
Plant vegetables following the recommended planting dates and seed depth. Sow seeds of full-sized plants to ½ the distance recommended for seed spacing. Planting closely inhibits growth and produces smaller fruit. Plant those bred to produce mini vegetables to the recommended spacing on the package.
Keep the soil moist until seedlings emerge and new growth is established. Follow the watering instructions for the specific vegetable. Typically, garden vegetables require the equivalent of 1 inch of rain per week. Water deeply to saturate roots and allow soil to dry before watering again.
Harvest full-size vegetables as soon as fruits form. Pick zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers and beans at a length of 2 to 4 inches for tender baby vegetables. Pick those bred to produce miniature vegetables, like head lettuce, eggplant and cauliflower, as soon as the vegetable is fully formed.