Grow Tasty Brussels Sprouts

If your only experience with eating Brussels sprouts involved mushy grayish blobs on a school cafeteria tray, you owe it to yourself to try fresh, emerald green sprouts from your own garden.

Brussels sprouts are not only tasty, they also make a fascinating looking plant. This vegetable develops a single sturdy, upright stalk with many large, rounded green leaves all along it. Individual sprouts, which look like tiny, tightly rounded cabbages, develop on the stalk at the base of each leaf petiole. To produce the best quality sprouts, make sure plants have a steady supply of water and be vigilant about controlling cabbage loopers and other leaf-eating pests. Harvest sprouts from the bottom of the stalk up when they reach about an inch and a half in diameter, then enjoy them steamed, roasted, or sautéed, just not overcooked!

Common name: Brussels sprouts
Botanical name: Brassica oleracea Gemmifera Group
Plant type: Annual
Height: 3 feet
Family: Brassicaceae

Growing conditions

  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Garden loam amended with plenty of organic matter
  • Moisture: Even moisture

Care

  • Mulch: 1 or 2 inches of organic mulch such as straw or shredded leaves
  • Pruning: None
  • Fertilizer: Topdress with compost or apply diluted soluble fertilizer through the growing season

Propagation

  • Seeds

Pests and diseases

  • Susceptible to cabbage loopers, imported cabbageworm, aphids, and several other insect pests

Cultivars

  • ‘Diablo’ has a long growing period and is good for late harvests.
  • ‘Jade Cross E’ is a productive early variety.
  • ‘Long Island’ is an heirloom variety from the 1890s.
  • ‘Rubine’ has pretty purple-tinted leaves and sprouts.

Garden notes

  • Start Brussels sprouts seeds indoors about 6 weeks before the last frost date. Hardened off seedlings can be planted outside a week or more before the last frost date.
  • Brussels sprouts are frost tolerant and can be left in the garden until temperatures start dropping below about 25 degrees F.
  • Pinch out the growing tip of Brussels sprouts plants in late summer to encourage existing sprouts to fill out.

All in the family

  • Brussels sprouts are a member of the mustard family (Brassicaceae), a large family that includes many familiar vegetable crops and garden weeds.
  • Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale and several other vegetables are all included under Brassica oleracea but are then further divided into horticultural groups. Brussels sprouts are in the Gemmifera Group.
  • Many mustard family plants are rich with healthful sulfur-based compounds.

Where to buy
Johnny’s Selected Seeds, johnnyseeds.com
Seed Savers Exchange, seedsavers.org
Stokes Seeds, stokeseeds.com