Brussel Sprouts - Love ‘Em or Hate ‘Em
Not everyone loves Brussel sprouts. With a distinctively “skunky” flavor, similar to other members of the cabbage family, for some, they may be an acquired taste. Or, it’s possible the haters just haven’t had them prepared at their best. Love them or hate them, Brussel sprouts have a lot going for them. They are incredibly nutritious and low in calories. They don’t need to ripen before you eat them and can be prepared in a variety of ways.
While Brussel sprouts are available year-round, their peak season is late September to February, when you will find them at their sweetest.
Interesting Facts About Brussel Sprout Plants
The Brussels sprout is a member of the Gemmifera Group of cabbages—Brassica oleracea—which include related cultivars such as broccoli, kale, cauliflower, collard greens and kohlrabi, to name a few. They were first cultivated—no surprise here—in 16th century Belgium and then spread throughout Europe and ultimately the rest of the world.
Guide to Growing Brussel Sprouts From Seed
- DIFFICULTY: Moderate
- SUN – Minimum of 6 hours
- WATER – Heavy drinkers. Keep soil moist at all times but don’t over-water, especially when seeds are first planted. Be careful not to damage their delicate leaves when young.
- SOIL – Well-drained, rich in organic matter. Soil pH should be around 6.8. Plants are shallow rooted so take care not to disturb the soil around them.
- AIR – 45°F to 75°F (cooler is better)
- TIMING – In northern zones, plant seeds indoors 8 weeks before the last anticipated hard spring frost. In more temperate zones, direct seed about 3 months before the first fall frost. The soil temperature should be at least 40° F.
- PLANTING – Plant seeds ¼” deep. Thin plants to 20” apart.
- GERMINATION – 10-21 days.
- TIME TO HARVEST - 90-100 days
- FEEDING – Organic fertilizer can be added 3 weeks after planting/transplanting
- MULCH - Important to keep the ground around them cool and moist. In colder climates bury the plants in leaves or hay in late fall to protect the plants or help them overwinter in warmer climates
- PESTS & DISEASES – They are susceptible to a wide variety of insect pests; control with nets or row covers; practice crop rotation to avoid infestation by larvae in the soil. Damp conditions can cause bacterial and fungal diseases.
- SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS – Hollow stems can occur with too-rapid growth caused by excessive nitrogen in the soil; choose organic fertilizers specifically made for cole vegetables. Sprouts that mature in hot or dry weather will be fragile and bitter.
- COMPANION PLANTS – Nasturtium, basil, garlic, marigolds. “Enemy plants” include strawberries and pole beans.
- CONTAINER-FRIENDLY? – yes, at least 8” deep.
Harvesting Brussels Sprouts
Sprouts first appear at the bottom of the plant with additional ones continuing to appear, spreading toward the top over the course of several weeks. They are ready to harvest when the heads are one-two inches in diameter. Harvest sprouts from the stalk by twisting them until they break away. As you harvest sprouts from the bottom-up, the plant will continue to grow upward and produce more sprouts well into the fall or even early winter, depending on your climate.
These hardy vegetables actually benefit from exposure to light frosts, making them sweeter!