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More info about Brussel Sprouts

The Brussels (or brussels or brussel) sprout (Brassica oleracea Gemmifera Group) of the Brassicaceae family, is a cultivar group of Wild Cabbage cultivated for its small (typically 2.5 – 4cm, 1 – 1.5 inches diameter) leafy green buds, which resemble miniature cabbages. The name stems from the original place of cultivation, not because of the vegetable’s popularity in Brussels.
Brussels sprouts are among the same family that includes cabbage, collard greens, broccoli, kale, and kohlrabi. They contain good amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid and dietary fibre. Moreover, they are believed to protect against colon cancer, due to their containing sinigrin. Like cauliflower, it thrives best in a cool humid climate, thus commercial production of this crop is concentrated in the “fog-belt” of California with limited production in the Long Island, New York area. The edible portion of this crop is the “bud” or small cabbage-like head which grows in the axils of each leaf. Occasionally the tops are used as greens.
The “sprouts” (small heads that resemble miniature cabbages) are produced in the leaf axils, starting at the base of the stem and working upward. Sprouts improve in quality and grow best during cool or even lightly frosty weather. Brussels sprouts require a long growing period, though newer hybrids have greatly reduced this requirement. In all but the most northern states, summers are usually too warm for completely satisfactory production from spring plantings. Plants set out in late spring to early summer grow satisfactorily and mature high-quality sprouts when the fall weather begins to cool.
Sprouts are very tolerant of almost all soil conditions although they dislike acid soils which can make them more susceptible to club root. A nitrogen fertiliser should be applied to the soil every 3 weeks through the growing season. A firm soil is best in order to enable the root system to support these top heavy plants. Dig some organic compost into the soil a few weeks before planting to help the soils moisture retention properties. Brussel Sprouts need a large amount of water but do not like standing water. Ensure to water the crop adequately during the growing season as the plants require water for growth and sprout development.
They will grow equally well in sun or partial shade, but prefer partial shade. Be sure not to grow them in front of other plants which need full sun, their foliage will put others in the shade. Again, because they are top-heavy, they should be grown in an area which is free from strong winds.
If you live in the colder regions of the United States – USDA zones 5 and below – the brussels sprout could be the best friend your kitchen garden ever had. Not only does it shrug off cold spells that would turn most veggie plants to mush, but a few good frosts actually enhance its flavor and appearance (which bears scant resemblance to that of the olive-drab stuff in the supermarket produce bins). They will grow well in temperatures up to 75 deg F. Warm temperatures will cause the sprouts to open up and lose their firmness. Warm weather also causes the flavour of the sprout to be more intense.
The sprouts form in the leaf axils (the point between where the leaf joins the stem) and can be harvested around 3 months after planting. Pick the sprouts when they are about 2-2.5cm in diameter or as soon as the lower leaves on the plant start to yellow. Pick or cut the sprout off the stem and remove any loose leaves from the sprout. Store the sprouts in a cool dark place. Like most things sprouts taste best when they are fresh.
For growing in fields, growers may grow plants and transplant to the field or the crop can be seeded directly in the field using a precision type seeder. For transplanting, 3 to 4 ounces of seed will be required to produce plants for one acre. Drill the seed in rows about 8 to 10 inches apart on a raised bed 36 to 42 inches wide and 4 to 6 inches high. Drill from 20 to 25 seeds per foot of row. The plant bed should be fumigated for control of weeds and soil-borne insects and diseases. The bed should be thoroughly aerated prior to seeding. Keep the soil moist after seeding to promote rapid germination and emergence. Thin, if necessary, to a spacing of 1 inch between plants. Greenhouse-grown transplants may also be used and several plant growing systems are available. If seeded directly in the field it will take 1 to 2 pounds of seed per acre.

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