Brussels Sprouts were a popular vegetable in Belgium, hence the name. They are a member of the brassica family, and are delicious if grown and cooked correctly – Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of vitamins C and D and dietary fibre.
Sow indoors in February/March for early varieties or in an outdoor seed bed mid-March/April for later cropping kinds.
Early-cropping varieties can be planted out in May, later varieties in June. As with all brassicas, firm soil is key to stop the plants rocking – dig over the autumn soil before planting, not immediately beforehand, and firm up by treading down well. Make planting holes with a dibber and firm plants in after planting by treading the soil down all round them with your boot.
Space 60 cm in all directions where space is short, but if you have more room to play with space plants 75 cm apart with 90 cm between rows to give you extra room to tend and harvest.
Water in well, and water in dry spells so plants don’t suffer a check to their growth, Give a top-up feed of general-purpose organic fertilizer in early August and water in.
Harvesting & Storage
Start picking sprouts as soon as they are large enough to use, starting from thumbnail size; early varieties are ready late September onwards, later ones in succession from November/December and the latest are not ready until after Christmas, but will stand in the ground until the end of March.
If you don’t want to harvest a meal at a time, it is possible to pull up a whole plant and ‘plunge’ the roots in a tub of compost in a cool place by the back door, or else cut the top section of stem and stand the base in a jar with a centimetre of water to keep sprouts fresh. They’ll keep in perfect condition this way for a week or so.
A frost is said to improve the flavour of sprouts.
Don’t overlook this end-of-season bonus, which you can reap even if your sprouts ‘blew’ instead of forming proper tight buttons - Sometimes Instead of forming tight buttons, ‘blown’ sprouts open out into small, flattened, ‘exploded green rosettes’ – these can still be harvested and are delicious.
Pests & Diseases
Brussels sprouts suffer the same set of problems as sprouting broccoli and other brassicas.
Aphids can be an issue – keep a careful eye on the developing tips and spray with soapy water and wipe any aphids away before they become a problem