Brussels Sprouts

June 7, 2015 lawanda Newspaper Columns

Brussels sprouts are one of the most disliked vegetables, but that is due mostly to being boiled to the point of mush and then smothered in butter. There are more appetizing, ways to prepare these mini-cabbages. I too hated Brussels sprouts until I bought some fresh at the Neenah Farmer’s Market a couple years ago and ate them for a snack on the way home. They were delicious!

This year, I am growing them in my vegetable garden for the first time. I started seeds indoors in mid-April and planted the seedlings outdoors a month later. I also direct-seeded some into the garden in mid-May. To avoid pests and diseases, Brussels sprouts should not be planted in the same spot where cabbage, broccoli, turnips, kale or cauliflower have been planted in the last two years.

Outdoors, seeds are planted ¼ to ½ inch deep, about 18 inches apart. These are big plants. They look like miniature palm trees and the sprouts are like tiny cabbages that grow in leaf axils along the trunk-like stem.

Brussels sprouts need 1-1 ½ inches of water per week during the growing season. Well-drained soil that still retains some water is ideal. Digging organic compost into the soil before planting helps with water retention.

Brussels sprouts mature from the bottom up, and lower sprouts can be harvested when they are as small as marbles, or left to grow up to an inch in diameter if desired. Break off the leaf just below the sprout and then twist the sprout to remove it from the stem. The leafy plant tops are also edible and can be cooked as greens.

The variety I chose is ‘Churchill’ and its description is as follows: “Flavorful, medium-green, smooth sprouts are large and mature remarkably early . . . a vigorous, easy-to-grow variety for diverse climates.”

To get a big harvest all at once, my seed packet says that to harvest a full stem of consistently-sized sprouts, the growing point at the top of the stem should be pinched off when lower sprouts are ½ – ¾ inch in diameter. Two to four weeks later, a full stem of uniformly-sized sprouts will be ready for harvest.

Warm temperatures cause spouts to be looser rather than held in tight balls and cause their mild flavor to become more intense. To help the plant deal with hot temps, place mulch around the stems to keep the soil uniformly cool. Brussels sprouts taste best when harvested after an autumn frost or two, but can be harvested continually throughout the summer as soon as they reach sufficient size.

Here is a cooking tip I found for boiling sprouts: Make a cross-shaped cut on the base of each sprout. This helps them to cook evenly into the middle without becoming overcooked to the point of mush on the outside. Another preparation method: lightly steam sprouts and then sauté them with bacon.

Give Brussels sprouts another try!

 

Fruits and vegetables


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