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Germany

Mini Veggies All the Rage

Thumb-sized vegetables are considered to be exclusive, delectable- and a new trend for both the gourmet and the domestic dinner table.

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They are eight centimetres long, bright red and exceptionally tasty: Mini paprikas, along with other "mini" vegetables are the latest rage in gourmet cooking.

These adorable looking miniature vegetables, also called midget vegetables, are immature specimens of full grown varieties, said to be sweeter in flavour and more delicate in texture than their older and larger counterparts.

Baby corns are simply immature ears of ordinary corn harvested at the time when the corn just emerges from the husks. The tiny ears, not longer than 4 cm, are used in various cooked dishes, but also in pickles and salads.

Other varieties of midget vegetables, however, are tiny even when full grown. These include the Tom Thumb lettuce which is not larger than a tennis ball, gold nugget carrots, not longer than six cm long and the small potato also referred to as yellow-flesh ladyfinger which is around 2 cm in diameter and eight centimetres long.

Exclusive

But while pickled baby corn are no speciality on German dinner tables, mini specimens of paprikas, potatoes and lettuces are still a novelty, and are generally found in more top-notch locations than the domestic kitchen.

As an average cabbage weighs around 2,5 kilos, its little brother is barely one tenth the weight. The price per gramme is therefore sky-high.

According to Market Manager Bert Schöttelndreier, "The mini-produce is definitely a growing market." However, as they take longer to grow than normal vegetables, they are still an exclusive product.

Hard work

Vegetable grower Sjaak Noordam's mini paprika are the result of three year's hard work on the paprika plot.

Given the amount of attention he lavishes on his plants, it's not surprising Sjaak affectionately refers to them as "baby paprikas".

Similar to a baby, cultivating these special vegetables takes time, and patience.

Patience which costs its price. Nordaam's main buyers are restaurants and catering companies. These tiny delicacies are not easily found in supermarkets, and for those domestic cooks with a penchance for small greens may have to resort to growing their own.

However, raising home-grown, midget vegetables may well become a popular pasttime for apartment and balcony owners. Not only do these plants take up less space. Mini vegetables are extremely perishable with a very limited shelf life - plucked from balcony pots makes sure the fruit remains fresh and crisp.

Not only are they easy to grow at home. Mini-vegetables are easier to eat too. According to restaraunt owner Otto Kunz, mini-vegetables "are easier to portion out".

And small vegetables are a treat to look at. Stuffed with sardines, pureed in a mini-courgette soup or cut into strips as the perfect accompaniment to a fillet of fish – these small vegetables look set to make big business in sure time.