Garden to Table: Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts offer the taste of a cabbage’s sweet, blanched heart in every singular blossom bite.
Harvesting Brussels Sprouts

Harvesting Brussels Sprouts

Photo by: DK - The Complete Gardener's Guide © 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - The Complete Gardener's Guide , 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Picking Brussels sprouts should begin when the sprouts are 1 inch in diameter. Harvesting Brussels sprouts is best done when maturity occurs in cooler weather. The plant will withstand frost and can be harvested until freezes occur.

With so many gardeners looking for recipes to capitalize on their homegrown goodness, we thought this was the perfect time for a feature that combines growing and eating: Garden to Table, produced with our friends at the Food Network blog FN Dish. Farmer-bloggers Judith Winfrey and Joe Reynolds offer their tips for sowing, growing and harvesting. And then we kick it over to FN Dish for some delicious recipes using this seasonal produce.—HGTVGardens

Brussels sprouts are the intermediaries, the middle child, if you will, between broccoli and cabbage. Actually, they’re more like the middle fraternal triplet. Each of the plants is a different phenotypical expression of the same genotype — a different physical expression of the same genetic code. Each a different sized flower bud. It’s pretty magical when you think about it.

When eating Brussels sprouts or cabbage, I like to imagine I am a tiny little bug crawling around on a broccoli plant. When I come to the edge of the plant and to the very tip of the broccoli flower, I encounter a tightly closed bud. Depending on what size bug I am, the bud might be bite size (Brussels sprouts), or it might be the size of a basketball (cabbage). It’s all about scale and proportion. For humans, Brussels sprouts are the perfect expression of the plant because you can enjoy the complete subtlety of layer, texture and contrast in one bite. -Judith

Varieties Grown

Diablo, Nautic, Long Island Improved, Kaleidoscope Mix

Seed Source

What I’m Wearing

Like a miniature swaddled baby, Brussels sprouts blooms are tightly wrapped and held to their mother plant, clinging to her stem.

Tasting Notes

Brussels sprouts offer the taste of a cabbage’s sweet, blanched heart in every singular blossom bite.

How to Grow

  • We like to start young plants in seed cells 4-6 weeks before transplanting. Here in the South, it is pertinent to get Brussels sprouts seedlings in the ground by the end of August to get plants sufficiently established before cold nights and short days set in. Brussels sprouts do best in climates and seasons where temperatures never spike above 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Flavor is improved by frosty weather.
  • We have also have the most success with seedlings by transplanting them out with large root systems.
  • For those that have little or no success with Brussel sprouts, Johnny’s Selected Seeds now offers a hybrid of Brussels sprouts and kale called Kaleidoscope Mix. They are quicker to mature and will surely be popular with market customers and chefs. Unlike true Brussels sprouts though, they are not as cold hardy.
  • Brussels sprouts, like all brassicas, require additionally amended nitrogen nutrients. We use alfalfa meal, feather, and/or blood meal, as well as fish emulsion to feed young plants.
  • Additionally, like all brassicas, Brussels sprouts can attract aphids, cabbage moth larvae, and, if you grow them into your warm months, harlequin bug. It is best to scout your plants often and consider covering them with row cover.
  • Harvest Brussels sprouts when sufficiently filled out. Keep plants harvested weekly or biweekly. In wet years, outer wrapping of leaves can become mildewed, but can be eaten when peeled.
  • At the end of the plant’s productiveness, harvest the whole top crown of the Brussels sprout plant for a delicious and sweet leafy green, similar to collards.

Like bacon and pork belly, Brussels sprouts have been hot items on forward-thinking chefs’ menus for sometime — especially Southern and farm-to-table oriented chefs. These powerhouse nuggets are delicious when roasted and sauteed and there’s something inherently delightful about how nicely they ornament a plate.

It’s best to keep things pared-back with sprouts. Try a basic preparation like Food Network Magazine‘s Roasted Brussels Sprouts and you will be rewarded with crispy, earthy goodness. A garlic fan are you? You couldn’t find a better flavor combination that garlic married to the sweetness of brown sugar in this Roasted Garlic Brussels Sprouts recipe. And speaking of matches made in heaven… two words: Brussels. Bacon. Rachael Ray brings it on with her Brussels Sprouts With Bacon.

Find more ways to prepare this whimsical veg at FN Dish.

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It’s worth freezing this cabbage cousin when you have homegrown or locally raised versions that boast frost-kissed sweetness.

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