Brussels sprouts are a cool weather crop. Growing them can provide you with an enjoyable gardening experience. They are a delicious food that has found its way into many kitchens and into many hearts. The rich, nutty flavor make it a favorite of many cooks and gardeners alike. The sprouts look like tiny, compact cabbages but they are much more flavorful.
Brussels sprouts do best in heavier soil. A good mix of clay soil with dried manure or compost for fertilizer works well. If you have lighter sandy soil, just add enough compost or manure to provide greater soil density. Start out with a two to three inch layer of compost or dried manure. Till the soil to a depth of about twelve inches.
Start seeds out in pots or growing trays four weeks before you intend to transplant outdoors. When the plants are about five inches tall transplant to your garden. Brussels sprouts are best grown in rows 18″ wide and three feet apart. Starting seeds in pots or trays and then transplanting, makes for hardier, healthier plants. When transplanting, allow 24″ to 36″ between plants. Add a three inch layer of straw mulch after transplanting to preserve moisture and to protect the plants from disease and insects.
You can plant seeds for the sprouts in March for a fall harvest. You can also plant seeds in April and transplant outdoors in May. This way you will be able to harvest Brussels sprouts between December and the following March. Thin your plants when they are about five inches tall to allow two feet between plants. As the plants grow, add a wooden supporting stake beside each as the Brussels sprouts plants can grow as high as three feet tall.
Be sure to water your plants regularly, especially during the warmer days of summer. Water in the early morning. Keep the soil moist but not wet. If the plants do not have enough water, they tend to form sprouts with loose leaves on the heads and with little flavor. More dried manure can be sprinkled around the plants every month to add nutrients to the soil.
Brussels sprouts can be harvested in from 90 to 110 days, depending on the variety. The tiny cabbage-like sprouts grow along the stalk of the plant. The lower 6-8 leaves can be cut off two weeks before harvest. This will force the plants to produce more profusely. To harvest, simply cut off the lower sprouts with a sharp knife when they are about one to two inches in diameter and are compact and bright green in color. If you planted in April for a winter harvest, the sprouts will have more flavor after exposure to frost.
Brussels sprouts are low in calories and high in dietary fiber. They contain Vitamins A, B6,C, E and K. They also contain good amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese.
Brussels sprouts can be steamed, braised or boiled. Before cooking, cut an “X” in the bottom of the stem. This way they will cook evenly. Cook Brussels sprouts seven to ten minutes. Do not over-cook. Over-cooking will diminish the flavor and nutrient content. It also reduces the delicious crunch. They can be added to soups or stews during th last ten minutes of cooking.
Store Brussels sprouts by first blanching for three minutes, then placing them in an ice bath for three minutes. They can then be put into freezer bags or storage containers and frozen. Frozen Brussels sprouts can be stored for up to a year. Brussels sprouts can also be canned.
Growing Brussels sprouts can provide you with a great gardening and dining experience. Add a few sprouts to you garden and, with a little care, you can have a plentiful crop. This easy-to-grow food crop has become a gardening favorite.