While parents calculate the age of their babies in weeks, farmers measure their babies--the leafy-green variety--in inches. Lee Jones at the Chef's Garden, a family farm in Huron, Ohio, that sells exclusively to restaurants, defines the stages of his greens this way: MICRO, 1 to 1 1/4 inches; COTYLEDON, 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 inches; PETITE, 1 3/4 to 2 inches; ULTRA, 2 to 3 inches; BABY, 3 to 4 inches; YOUNG, 4 inches and up.
In addition to fruit and vegetable markets and farmers' markets, baby greens are available by mail order from Indian Rock Produce (800-882-0512).
How chefs treat their babies
JOSIAH CITRIN of Mélisse in Santa Monica, California, likes to put baby greens and mature ones on the same plate. His steak comes with wilted baby chard and roasted mature chard in a chive, shallot and bone-marrow sauce.
DIANE FORLEY of Verbena in New York City uses the tiniest greens almost as herbs. She stirs micro tatsoi into hot potatoes along with scallions and a Champagne vinaigrette, then serves them with seared tuna.
MICHAEL LEVITON of Lumière in West Newton, Massachusetts, boosts the flavor of English peas with pea shoots. The pea-shoot salad he mounds on top of salmon highlights the ragout of peas and lettuce beneath the fish.
JOSEPH WREDE of Joseph's Table in Taos, New Mexico, doesn't baby his microgreens. He gives them the same treatment as mature ones, going so far as to char them with leeks and serve them with a roasted-tomato vinaigrette.
Greens & health
Researchers haven't yet analyzed the makeup of all baby greens; however, it's logical to assume that because plants develop vitamins, minerals and fiber as they grow, baby greens are less nutritious than mature greens. Even so, they are an excellent source of beta-carotene, vitamin C and folate, and a modest source of iron, calcium and potassium. They also contain compounds called phytochemicals that combat heart disease and other serious ailments. And, in a few cases, baby greens proudly deliver nutrients that their older siblings might not: For instance, pea shoots contain a phytochemical called quercetin that fights cancer.