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Brussels Sprouts Can Change Gardening Minds,….and Taste Buds

Want to try something different in your winter garden this year? Well, when it comes to Brussels sprouts, you either love them or hate them. They’re not commonly grown in the Panhandle, but if you’re looking for something different, try growing this tiny cabbage. Predicted weather conditions for this season should lend a great crop.

brussels_sproutsBrussels sprouts are very popular in Europe, especially Great Britain, but not so much here in the U.S. However, they are grown commercially in California and New York. But, most states have a limited market and these crops are mostly seen in backyard vegetable gardens. The two varieties, Jade Cross and Long Island Improved, are the most commonly grown in the Panhandle.

Brussels sprouts are actually a type of cabbage. However, the plant does not form one large head in the center, but rather many small heads on lengthy branches. Each golf ball size sprout resembles a cabbage head. Brussels sprouts require extended cold, dry weather, just as many sources have predicted for this year in the Panhandle. Brussels Sprouts can also survive a heavy frost. They’ll need a temperature at least in the lower 60’s in order to maintain a solid sprout and not open up. If sprouts open, structural integrity is lost, and the sprout will turn to mush.

Finding Brussels sprout transplants for your garden may be a challenge. They’re just not that popular. The good news is, seed is readily available and germination is quick once planted in garden soil. Seeds should be planted between October-December in the Panhandle. When planting, space approximately 2 ½’ apart within the row at a seeding depth of a ½”. Rows should be 2’ apart. It’s a good idea to fertilize before you plant with a general all-purpose fertilizer like 10-10-10 or 8-8-8. A good rule of thumb is to disperse 4 pounds of fertilizer per 100’ row. Once plants have grown a few inches, broadcast another application and apply a water afterwards. After a month, another application should be done. Plants should reach maturity at three months. First sprouts will develop on lower branches. Once sprouts are golf ball size, they’re ready to pick.

As far as pest management, the most common issues with Brussels sprouts are the same with any cabbage. Aphids, nematodes and cabbage worms pose the greatest threats. If these pests appear, it’s usually later in the season when the plant is closer to maturity. At that point, you should apply a common vegetable garden pesticide, one that can be used with any variety of produce. As always, be sure to follow the manufacture’s label directions when using chemicals.

Brussels sprouts are high in nutritional value. According to the USDA, a sprout has approximately 10 calories, and is high in both dietary fiber and vitamin C. Here is a challenge for readers who are not fans of the tiny cabbage. Fair warning, this challenge is under the premise that additional calories are acceptable. Start by sauteing a dozen or so Brussels sprouts in equal parts olive oil & butter. Once the sprouts have become a bit tender, add a generous amount of Parmesan cheese and bacon bits. Plate and dig in. I’m confident that this will change some minds.

For more information, contact your local IFAS Extension office

Supporting information can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS publications, “Brussels Sprouts-Brassica oleracea L. (Gemmifera group)” by James M. Stephens, & “Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide by Sydney Park Brown, Danielle Treadwell, J.M. Stephens and Susan Webb.

 

 

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