LIFE’S LITTLE TREASURES

Q: What is the difference between a baby leek and a pencil leek? 

Often in winter, we find pleasure in the oversized;  big coats, big coffees, big portions. But bigger isn’t always better, in fact this week we are paying homage to a range of fresh veggies that are desirable because they are small

Baby vegetable lines have been on the increase in popularity for a number of years. Not only are they more delicate in appearance, but they also tend to have a milder (or sweeter) flavour than their large scale brethren. Versatile and delicious, they are a fantastic addition to the menu as they are both practical and inspirational. So downsize with pleasure and enjoy our range of baby veges this winter: 

 

BABY BEETROOT: 

Image Source: www.marketfresh.com.au

Availability: best May – Nov

Appearance: small purple beetroot with long green and purple leaves similar in texture to spinach

Preparation: use leafy stalks like spinach/silverbeet or purple tuber as per regular beetroot

Flavour: sweeter, more delicate flavour than regular beetroot

Big deal: beyond its more delicate appearance, baby beets are more tender and have a finer texture than regular beetroot

 

BABY GOLD BEETROOT:

Image Source: biovia.com

Availability: best May – Nov

Appearance: yellow coloured baby beetroot

Preparation: use leafy stalks like spinach/silverbeet or purple tuber as per regular beetroot- steam or roast to get the most out of their flavour and texture

Flavour: creamy beetroot flavour, though they are earthier and not as sweet red varieties

Big deal: offers a wonderful contrast of colour, more tender and has a finer texture than regular beetroot 

 

BELLA ROSSA CAPSICUM: aka baby red capsicum 

Image source: www.perfection.com.au

Availability: all year

Appearance: small, round, red capsicum- approx 1/3rd of the size of regular capsicum

Preparation: roast, bake, stir-fry, casseroles, salads 

Flavour: sweet, crunchy

Big deal: thinner skin than regular caps and perfect for single serve use

 

BABY CAPSICUM: Vine Sweet

Image Source: www.perfection.com.au

Availability: all year

Appearance: elongated thin caps (approx 6cm)- red, orange or yellow

Preparation: minimal prep needed, use raw in salads or use in casseroles, stews, stir-fries

Flavour: crunchy, sweet and juicy

Big deal: ripened on the vine, full of moist, sweet flavour. Vibrant colour and holds shape well when cooked

  

DUTCH CARROTS: aka baby carrots

Image Source: www.marketfresh.com.au

Availability: best Mar – Aug

Appearance: small purple, white, yellow or orange carrots, still attached to the green leaves & sold in bunches

Preparation: perfect for baking, roasting, raw – even for pickling/brining

Flavour: sweet (purple are even sweeter)

Big deal: very tender, dutch carrots are perfect for serving whole as a side dish

 

GOLFBALL CARROTS:

Image Source: www.marketfresh.com.au

Availability: Mar – Aug

Appearance: small, orange round ball-shaped carrots with leaves still attached

Preparation: perfect for all types of cooking and roasting

Flavour: sweet, crisp

Big deal: look fantastic on the plate and are fantastic for cooking 

 

CONTINENTAL EGGPLANT: aka baby eggplant, oriental eggplant

Image Source: www.marketfresh.com.au

Availability: all year- best Jan – Jul

Appearance: thin, long eggplants varying in colour from light green to purple

Preparation: stew, fry, bake or grill 

Flavour: moist and succulent, not as acidic as full size eggplant

Big deal: cooks quickly, has a much thinner skin than regular eggplant 

 

BABY FENNEL: 

Image source: www.fruitezy.com.au

Availability: Mar – Sept 

Appearance: small fennel bulbs

Preparation: both leaves and base are edible. Fantastic in Mediterranean dishes, they are compatible with sweet and salty flavours. Think salads, soups, casseroles, fish dishes

Flavour: slightly richer aniseed flavour than regular fennel. Leaves are stronger, base is sweeter and less pungent

Big deal: beautiful flavour coupled with a more delicate appearance on the plate

 

PENCIL LEEKS:

Image: www.allotmentplanplotter.blogspot.com

Availability: Mar – Oct

Appearance: pencil thin, small leeks (different to baby leek which are thicker)

Preparation: often used as a steamed side-dish or chopped into a salad in place of salads onions 

Flavour: milder leek flavour

Big deal: more delicate appearance and flavour than large leeks and therefore perfect as a side-dish or salad ingredient

 

BABY TURNIP:

Image Source: www.naturespride.eu

Availability: May – Oct

Appearance: small white or purple top turnips (approx 5cm) 

Preparation: great for salads, roasting, in casseroles, stews etc – or slice into stir-fry

Flavour: can be eaten raw as not as strong as regular turnip- sweet and peppery

Big deal: milder flavour, not as bitter as full grown counterpart 

 

A: It really does come down to a matter of millimeters. Pencil leeks are literally ‘pencil thin’ (approx 7-8mm in diameter), while baby leeks are a touch broader (average 11-15mm in diameter). While it may seem inconsequential, both pencil leeks and baby leeks boast a sweet, subtle onion flavour, this kind of distinction can make all the difference in achieving the desired aesthetic and balance of flavours on the plate. 



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