Common Name: Brussels Sprouts
Botanical Name: Brassica oleracea
Vegetable Type: Cruciferous
Varieties: Abacus, Maximus, Cronus, Diablo
Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable, which means they are closely related to broccoli, cabbage, etc. They are a long-season growing crop, with time from plant to harvest taking around 6 months for best results. However, its health benefits are worth it. They are extremely high in fibre, protein, and have been shown to significantly lower cholesterol levels. Now to grow this diet starter of a plant, let’s see its main features.
Flowering season: Early summer (April-May)
Flowers: Medium sized, four-petals, yellow
Foliage: Long, smooth, light green stalk-like leaves
Sunlight: Full sun, requires 6-8 hours of direct exposure to sunlight daily
Water: Moderately, keep the top one inch of soil moist, but make sure the soil is well-drained and loose
Sowing Season: Brussels sprouts are a cool season crop, and need to be sown two weeks before the cold season begins, depending on your climate.
Sowing Method: Start the seeds off indoors, until they reach a certain height before transplanting them outside. When the young plants are 10-15cm (4-6in) high and have around seven true leaves, transplant to their growing positions, leaving 60cm (2ft) between plants and 75cm (2.5ft) between rows. Before planting, water plants well and water well again after transplanting. However, after the initial transplanting phase, make sure not to overwater the plants as this can affect the quality of the crop yield.
Care: Make sure to use an organic fertilizer, with high nitrogen and boron content for your crop. Also spread out a layer of mulch over the soil to give a uniform feeding distribution for the plants. Mound the soil around the base to support the plants.
Pests: Birds and caterpillars are the main culprits which hinder the growth of this plant. They eat the leaves of the Brussels sprout in its initial stages. Make sure to keep a net or some sort of covering after transplanting the plants, to avoid this headache.
Harvest: The part that is harvested, are the buds which grow on the stems, in between the leaves. Usually the plant is ready for harvest around 6 months after planting. Wait for one frost to pass before harvesting, as sprouts are said to be the sweetest after a frost has passed. Simply snap them off of the stem, to harvest them. Cutting off the leaves makes the buds easier to reach, thus making harvesting an easier task.
Propagation: Brussels sprouts are primarily propagated by seeds.
As we can see, Brussels sprouts are a long-growing crop. For those of you who live in cooler climes such as hill stations, you can give this crop a go, and reap the rewards of your harvest. Use this sweet, crisp vegetable in your salads, or as a light snack on their own, with the satisfaction of having grown them yourself!