About twenty years have passed since the so-called "Baby vegetables" or microgreens they began to be marketed and cultivated in Europe, yet since then they have remained a constant presence on supermarket shelves and a niche product that is still very much in vogue. Of these miniature vegetables, appreciated as a healthy snack as a decorative element or a delicious ingredient for gourmet preparations and recipes, there are actually different types. So let's find out what these baby vegetables are and how they were born and what their popularity is due to.
History and characteristics of baby vegetables
Baby carrots, mini courgettes, baby spinach, artichokes, baby napkins are just some of the more than fifty types of varieties of baby vegetables grown or imported from many countries in the world, from Asia to North America. In Italy this delicious novelty arrived in 2001 and since then, although most of the products come from abroad, France, England and Northern Europe in the lead, local production and sales have grown more and more. The small size of these foods have indeed collected the consent of an ever wider consumer audience, from mothers, who have made it an ideal snack to entice their children to eat healthier, to the elderly and singles, who appreciate its practicality against waste, and finally all those who are looking for decorative finger food or food trends beautiful to photograph and share on social networks. Few know, however, that in the wide panorama of miniature vegetables are to be distinguished three varieties, grown with three different techniques.
The first is that of genetically dwarfor rather vegetables which, even if ripe, have a smaller size than the most famous large variety, and which can therefore be considered the most "natural"; for example, some types of tomatoes and green beans fall into this family.
Instead, they belong to the second, less natural, but still healthy variety, all those standard size vegetables that are harvested prematurely; these mini vegetables, often tender and with a more delicate flavor than the corresponding ripe variety, include mini corn on the cob (much used in Asian cuisine), mini lettuce, mini carrot and various vegetables including zucchini, aubergines and peppers.
The last category of baby vegetables includes instead those that are obtained with a high density production per square meter, which therefore blocks its correct and complete development; for example, baby onions can be grown with this technique, but also cauliflowers, broccoli and turnips.
In short, for each mini vegetable or mini vegetable there is a different family, which it can be interesting to discover also to better understand its history and peculiarities. However, it is good to know that none of these plants have been genetically modified and that they are normal healthy and nutritious vegetables with reduced dimensions, often grown in a greenhouse with few chemical treatments.
The case of baby carrots
The case of the famous ones is quite different "Baby carrots", a snack that Italy never seems to go out of style, but that has made a lot of talk in recent years. Not to be confused with the carrots of the Imperator variety that are harvested before their complete ripening, some of the mini carrots that are distributed all over the world they are nothing but adult carrots, often deformed, which are cut to a perfect miniature shape, about 5 centimeters long. This unique product was invented in the 1990s by a Californian grower named Mike Yurosek to cope with the daily loss of tons of carrots that did not meet the aesthetic standard desired by consumers. Yurosek then tried to peel and carve some of his carrots and proposed them to the distribution chain to which he addressed; unexpectedly the request was such that it then had to move on to an industrialized process that would allow the cutting, peeling, modeling and polishing of the "baby carrots". Soon these carrots spread throughout the country generating such a craze that the sale and intake of national carrots increased dramatically; in the 2000s baby carrots even dominated the fresh vegetable market in the United States. Both abroad and in Italy, this snack has sparked the interest of the press, in a succession of opinions and articles that criticized the deception that lies behind the product, but also the high price, the chemicals often used during the processing and the unsustainable aspect of the packaging process. However, there were also those who highlighted some positive aspects, including the anti-waste nature of production, as well as the positive result of the significant increase in sales of a product that is in any case healthy, rich in vitamins and nutrients.
Nowadays these "fake mini carrots" make up a small part of those present in our supermarkets, but as with all mini vegetables, it is always good not to take the history and provenance of the product for granted.
Photo: Baby carrots grown_Flickr_Steven Depolo.jpg