Saturday, 28 September 2013

Brussels Sprouts - learning from a friend

I have only grown Brussels sprouts three times. The first time, many years ago, was a complete flop and I was discouraged, but last year I had another try and the results were a lot better. This year: Third Time Lucky maybe?

I am putting into practice a piece of advice given to me by my blogging friend David Offutt, who runs the website called The Gastronomic Gardener. He has told me that if you cut the tops and most of the leaves off the Brussels Sprouts plants they will put more energy into the sprouts themselves and thus produce a better crop. I thought this had to be worth a try.

I have only four plants. They are of the variety "Brilliant". For comparison purposes I decided to apply the "short back and sides" treatment to two of them, and leave the other two un-shorn. This is what they looked like just before their haircut:

I think you can easily see how the sprouts, clustered closely around the stem of the plant, might not get as much light as they would like:

The tops of the plants are very cabbage-like, and we always eat them. This year we will be eating some of them a bit earlier than usual!



The bit we are going to eat

After the job was done, this is what the plants looked like:

You can see the sprouts more clearly here, and you will note that they are not yet very big. Hopefully they will get bigger in the next few weeks - especially since they will receive more light.

Naturally, the trimmings were not wasted. They went into the compost bin, where the worms will no doubt feast upon them.

Just one more thing to show you today. A "blown" sprout. By this term we mean a sprout that has developed very loosely, unlike the normal tightly-formed ones.

They are edible, but not very pleasant because they quickly go mushy when cooked. Fortunately I have
only found one such sprout on my plants. It joined the trimmed-off leaves in the compost...

I'll let you know how the comparitive trial goes.


  1. It will be interesting to see how the experiment works out. We have to use club root resistant varieties on our plot. For a couple of years our sprouts began to fail until we decided club root was the problem. Now we need a club root resistant broccoli

  2. I've always heard that advice too. Of course I've never gotten that close to getting a sprout, so never had the chance to try it.

  3. I've never grown sprouts, but I will be interested to see what happens with your experiment. If i can work out how to protect them from pigeons and butterflies I'll give them a go next year!

  4. Hi Mark, sorry I have not visited you for a while but as I am going to disagree today you might not be sorry.
    I think your sprouts look lovely and healthy and show little signs of the common yellowing of the lower leaves with downy mildew and there is no reason to cut them off and take away resources from the plant that will give them energy to keep going well into late spring giving delicious green shoots and sprouts. You might get earlier sprouts with your technique but I love to get a long season. Mine would never sell at Tesco because they lack uniformity but I love them. For me sprouts are the most fantastic and rewarding vegetable to grow. My mouth is just watering...
    Mad or what?

    1. Roger; As it happens, I agree with you! I had always been taught that the leaves are the "powerhouse" of the plant for photosynthesis, so would be best left uncut. It's ust that David has had good results with his technique and I therefore want to do a comparitive trial. I am working on the "Don't knock it until you've tried it" principle.

  5. Hi Mark, do you protect your sprouts from the bad cabbage white butterfly in their early growth? They look great, I may try some next year

    1. Hi April; This time I didn't, but as some stages I was wishing I had! With only four plants to look after it is reasonably practical to pick off by hand any butterfly eggs / caterpillars that you see, but with a larger number I think a net would definitely be required. There were huge quantities of Cabbage White butterflies this year.

  6. Your sprouts look great already.

    Goodness! No pressure here! I topped mine perhaps a bit early as some of the top sprouts look like they are now the growing tip. Also, I don't take the sides leaves off only the top! But I do love a good experiment!

  7. This is my first time seeing this brussel sprout plants. I used to called it baby cabbage. I cook it with oyster sauce. Not bad.

  8. Hi Awin; Thank you for visiting my blog. I looked at your blog, but I'm afraid I don't understand much Bahasa Melayu, so I wasn't able to read your articles. I liked your photos though! I can see that you are a keen gardener.

  9. Thanks for the detailed cultivating tips! I just picked up some stalks of Brussel sprouts from a local farm, and was wondering why it was cut in a certain way.


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