You can grow your own baby leaf greens for salad quickly, easily, and in the smallest spaces. All you need is good quality soil, enough light and water, and the right seeds to plant.
We’ve done the research to see which baby salad greens are available online.
In this article, we’re going to share our findings and recommend some of the best baby greens you can grow at home.
What Are Baby Leaf Greens?
Baby leaf greens are young, freshly grown salad vegetables that are tender and tasty. Like all green, leafy vegetables, they are high on the list of nutritional goodies.
They are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. They are also packed with valuable phytochemicals that plants produce. These help to protect your cellular system and cut the risk of chronic diseases.
In short, baby leaf vegetables are incredibly good for us! But we’re not going to say that you must grow them only because they symbolize healthy food. We want you to grow baby green salad veggies because they are delicious as well as nutritious! They also look great, especially when mixed with a few edible flowers, like nasturtiums, marigolds, or pretty rose petals.
Baby leaf greens are what you and I can use to make a stand-out salad. Flash-fried, we can also serve them on the side or as a garnish.
Examples of Baby Greens
Baby greens are like most other green leafy vegetables, only smaller. We harvest some of them early, before they mature, like baby leaf kale. Others are small-leafed species.
The most common baby greens include:
- Arugula, also known as rocket
- Watercress, a small-leafed species
- Cilantro or coriander, another small-leafed, rather than baby green
- Mustard greens
- Bok choy, a type of small-leaf Chinese cabbage
There is a choice when you buy baby leaf vegetables from a supermarket or greengrocer. You can buy a single type of green or a ready-mixed pack that contains three or four types. Many packs contain mainly baby leaf lettuce mixed with rocket and baby leaf spinach.
Are Baby Greens more Nutritious?
People often ask if baby leaves are more nutritious than small-leafed species and full-grown leaf greens.
The answer is usually no. But our research reveals that some baby greens might be more nutritious, particularly spinach.
Spinach, in all shapes and sizes, is a superfood. It provides us with protein, vitamin A and C, magnesium, potassium, and other elements. But there are studies that show baby leaf spinach contains more of some types.
These include vitamin C, flavonoids, and carotenoids.
- Vitamin C is an essential vitamin with many health benefits.
- Flavonoids protect your body from toxins and stressors.
- Carotenoids are antioxidants that help to prevent disease. They show up in plants as brightly colored pigments.
At the same time, cooking mature spinach will increase its carotene content. So, this is a difficult question to answer!
The Best Baby Salad Greens to Grow
The best baby salad greens to grow at home are those that you enjoy eating. But it’s also great fun to experiment with different types and varieties.
Your choice will also depend on which baby leaf vegetables are easily available to you. These may be seeds or seedlings. So, let’s look at the pros and cons of seeds vs seedlings.
Then we’ll talk about some interesting varieties.
Baby Leaf Seeds vs Seedlings
All vegetables are cheaper to grow from seed. But if you start with seedlings, your yummy greens will be available sooner. That’s not a huge advantage though because we harvest baby leaf greens much sooner. For example, you harvest baby leaf kale, spinach, and rocket when the plants are between two and six weeks old. Mature plants need to grow for up to nine weeks.
Seedlings are easier to grow, but you will get more from seeds. This will only be an advantage if you have somewhere to transplant the many seedlings that sprout. If you only have a couple of pots, seedlings might be a better bet.
We found that there is a much better choice of seeds vs seedlings.
Popular Seed Choices
Besides the basic types of baby salad greens we have mentioned, you will find there is an enormous choice when it comes to variety.
For example, we found that gourmet baby leaf lettuce packs often combine as many as six varieties for color, texture, and taste.
1. Lettuce Seeds
Stockists don’t always give a species name, but the description will help you decide which sort to buy. There is usually also a picture on the packet or online shop page.
Types of enticing baby leaf lettuce we spotted include:
- Red leaf, including Lolla Rossa
- Oakleaf Green and Oakleaf Red
- Pretty frilly green-leaf types
- Smooth-leaf butterhead or butter lettuce, including the smaller-than-most Little Gem
2. Spinach Seeds
Like loose-leaf lettuce, you can pick baby leaves as you need them. You can also leave the plant to mature and use it the same way as any other regular spinach.
Many people think Swiss chard is a type of spinach. Even though it is delicious when cooked, it isn’t spinach. Also, it’s not a good choice for a salad, even if you harvest it when it’s very young!
3. Cabbage Seeds
There are many different types of kale, some with smooth leaves and some with curly leaves. You will also find them in green or purple.
These are three interesting varieties:
- Vates Blue-Curled Scotch Curly Kale has crinkly, blue-green leaves. It’s a good choice for making kale chips.
- Chou Moellier Kale, an easy-to-harvest variety like loose-leaf lettuce.
- Couve Tronchuda Portuguese Kale with a taste more like cabbage than other types of kale.
4. Mustard Greens
Four stand-out varieties we found online are:
- Mizuna, Japanese in origin, with a feathery looking leaf.
- Mibuna, a smooth long, thin-leafed salad green with a mild mustard-like flavor.
- Tatsoi, an Asian baby leaf with dark green, rosette-type, shiny leaves.
- Gai Choi, a Chinese, quick-growing type.
5. Endive & Chicory Seeds
Varieties that can be grown to produce baby salad greens include:
- Yellow-centered Bubikopf
- Jagged, curly-leaf Angel hair
- Light green St. Laurent, with its unusual serrated leaves
- Batavian Broadleaf
- Pancalieri Fine Cut
Other types of baby leaf chicory include:
- Catalogna, also called Puntarelle and Italian Dandelion
- Treviso Red, also known as Radicchio
Pros & Cons of Growing Your Own Baby Leafs
These are some of the pros and cons of growing your own salad leaves:
- You can grow them in pots and in small areas of the garden.
- If you sow your seeds every seven to ten days, your plants will keep producing baby salad leaves. You will have fresh, tender greens for as long as possible.
- They are more flavorful and tender than fully-grown green leaf vegetables.
- You can pick them when you want to eat them.
- They don’t get bitter like some fully-grown green leaf species like kale. Baby kale has a much milder flavor than mature kale.
- You can pick and choose which baby salad greens you want for your salad.
- You can grow them organically, without using chemicals to make them grow or to kill pests.
- You need to spend a little time planting and caring for them. But we don’t think this is much of a con!
- Pests and diseases can be a challenge, especially if you want your baby salad greens to be organic.
- When you buy baby greens, you need to eat them within two or three days. This is because they go off quicker than full-grown green leaf vegetables.
We’ve introduced you to the best baby leaf greens and discussed which ones you can grow at home.
Here is a quick summary to remind you of our suggestions.
- Growing your own salad is easy and a lot of fun.
- We can harvest most salad greens before they mature.
- Baby leaf greens are healthy and nutritious.
- You can grow baby versions of most of the leaf greens we use in salads.
- Baby greens are as nutritious as all the wholesome salad greens we usually eat.
- The most common baby green seeds are lettuce, spinach, kale, mustard greens, and chicory.
- Growing your own baby leaf greens will save you money.
- Home-grown baby leaf greens will ensure your salads are always fresh and delicious.
Baby leaf greens are easy to grow and you can harvest them within weeks. So, why not choose some of our favorites and give small-scale salad gardening a try? You’ll find sowing and growing instructions on seed packets.
We are certain the tiny bit of effort required will be worth the tasty, nutritional rewards.