Brussels sprout grows best in zone 8 in the winter. It is a cool season vegetable that does not tend to grow well in warm weather. A climate of steady, even moisture is the best for the plant, which is why sprouts are best suited for the conditions in Pacific Northwest. Hot spells and dry weather stunt the plant’s growth. Brussels sprouts require full sun as well as rich, well-drained soil. They grow well in soil previously used to grow legumes such as beans and peas. Sprouts are best planted 5 months before the fall frost and should be planted 18 to 24 inches apart. Sprouts can also be grown over the winter and should be mulched at the base in order to maintain an even soil temperature (2). Pinch leaves off from under the new sprouts as they form in order to direct plant growth energy into forming sprouts. Pinch off top leaves to prevent side growth. When sprouts reach ½ inch in diameter, pinch off the cluster of leaves at the top of the main stem (the growing point) in order for all sprouts to ripen at the same time. Otherwise, sprouts will ripen naturally over a longer period of time (1). Sprouts are ready to harvest when they are 1 to 2 inches in diameter.When harvesting, start from the bottom of the stem. Sprouts last for several weeks on the stem before going bad. The sprouts resemble tiny cabbages and are in the same family as broccoli, cabbage, collard greens, kale, and cauliflower. They are recommended to be planted in companionship with beets, bush beans, carrots, celery, lettuce, onion, pea, potato, radish, spinach, and tomato. Avoid growing with kohlrabi, pole beans, and strawberries (10).
Culinary and Medicinal Uses
Although Brussels sprouts often carry a stigma, much like broccoli, their bad reputation may be due to ill-timed harvesting. When harvested too early, the sprouts contain a bitter taste and rough texture. On the other hand, they carry a sweeter, nutty, and pleasant flavor when freshly picked after a few frosts. Both the sprouts and their leaves can be cooked. Smaller sprouts have a sweeter flavor. They are best when they are ½ to 1 inch in diameter and are cooked evenly. Brussel sprouts give off a sulfuric smell when overcooked. Ideal sprouts are compact and green (3). Sprouts can be sauteed, steamed, roasted, boiled, and braised (5). For a quick winter side dish, coat sprouts in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and oil. Then, bake the sprouts in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until they are slightly brown. The sprouts’ leaves can also be cooked and sauteed with olive oil and garlic (2)(3). Brussels Sprouts’ flavor is maximized when cooked with red meat, pork, poultry (9), and fatty dishes in general. Brussels sprouts also pair well with citrus and tangy tastes, such as ginger, orange, cranberry, and balsamic vinegar. Brussels sprouts, as with all cruciferous vegetables, contain a high supply of phytonutrients which may help prevent cancer (3). A half cup of sprouts provides 80% of the recommended supply of vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, folate, iron, and fiber that is crucial for healthy digestion. The fiber contained in brussels sprouts also protects the lining of the stomach. Brussels sprouts also contain 4 glucosinolates, which prevent cancer and are responsible for the odorous smell often associated with the cooked plant (8). When steamed, the fiber from the sprouts excrete excess bile and can lower cholesterol levels. Brussels sprouts have anti-inflammatory agents that can improve conditions in Crohn's disease, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, type-2 diabetes, and ulcerative colitis. Cruciferous vegetables also reduce the risk of heart disease due to their anti-inflammatory nature.
Significance to Cultural Communities
Brussels sprouts are indigenous to Europe and are thought to be named after the city of Brussels, Belgium. In the United Kingdom, brussels sprouts are a traditional winter vegetable and are associated with Christmas feasts (7). In Chinese medicine, brussel sprouts are prescribed for digestive health (8). Most American brussels sprouts are grown in California (9).
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2."Brussels Sprouts - Tips from Seed To Harvest." Brussels Sprouts. Web. 30 Sept. 2014. <http://cedarcirclefarm.org/tips/entry/brussels-sprouts-tips-from-seed-to-harvest>.
3."Guide to Brussels Sprouts." Cooking Light. Web. 30 Sept. 2014. <http://www.cookinglight.com/food/in-season/in-season-brussels-sprouts>.
4."Brussels Sprout Leaves." The Farmers Feast. Web. 30 Sept. 2014. <http://thefarmersfeast.me/2011/03/18/brussels-sprout-leaves/>.
5."How To Cook Brussels Sprouts So Everyone Will Love Them." How To Cook Brussels Sprouts So Everyone Will Love Them. Web. 30 Sept. 2014. <http://www.enjoy-how-to-cook.com/how-to-cook-brussels-sprouts.html#braising>.
6."Brussels Sprouts." Brussels Sprouts. Web. 30 Sept. 2014. <http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=10>.
7."Brussels Sprout." - New World Encyclopedia. Web. 30 Sept. 2014. <http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Brussels_sprout>.
8."11 Things You Probably Did Not Know About Brussels Sprouts." Food Republic. Web. 30 Sept. 2014. <http://www.foodrepublic.com/2013/02/19/11-things-you-probably-did-not-know-about-brussels#!slide=3>.
9."All About Brussels Sprouts." The Reluctant Gourmet. Web. 30 Sept. 2014. <http://www.reluctantgourmet.com/all-about-brussels-sprouts/>.
10.Quinlan, Jeff. "Companion Planting Charts: Complete List." GrowingAnything.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2014. <http://www.growinganything.com/companion-planting-charts.html>.