By Victoria Fuller
This may seem like an unusual time of year to start considering starting a new crop-based adventure that doesn’t find its home in Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing, but it’s true! Certain crops can thrive even after the first frosts have reared their chilly heads, and today we are going to focus on one of the most nutritious fall crops of all: Brussels Sprouts!
But Brussels Sprouts taste bad…
One of the most divisive vegetables of all, there is actually a reason why you may or may not detest the taste of Brussels Sprouts and it all comes down to one simple thing: genetics! There is a taste receptor gene known as “TAS2R38” which is a bitter taste receptor. According to studies around 70% of the world’s population has this gene and for those of us who do it basically boils down (little Brussels Sprout preparation joke for you there) to certain foods having a bitter and unpleasant taste (such as Red Cabbage and Brussels Sprouts). As a general rule, poisonous foods often have a bitter taste, so humans developed the TAS2R38 gene in order to identify and avoid potentially life-threatening foods, so next time you turn your nose up at a Brussels Sprout because it tastes a bit bitter, 1. Don’t be mean, the Brussels Sprout didn’t do anything to you, and 2. Thank your genetics for having your back…or I suppose tongue.
- Did you know that Brussels are in fact named after the capital city of Belgium? They gained popularity in 13th century Belgium and have been a staple ever since! This also explains why they correct spelling and pronunciation is “Brussels Sprouts” as opposed to “Brussel Sprouts”.
- An 80g serving of Brussels Sprouts contains more vitamin C than an Orange! Talk about a superfood!
- There are more than 110 varieties of Brussels Sprouts with a plethora of nutritional benefits and flavours so you are certain to find one that speaks to you and your Brusselly needs!
- Brussels Sprouts are technically teeny tiny miniature bite-sized cabbages!
When growing your own delicious (yes we said it!) Brussels Sprouts you will want to make sure you have well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0 and a depth of around ¼ to ½ inches (regardless of if you are starting your seeds indoors or planting them directly outside!). Brussels Sprouts seeds should be planted about 3 inches apart and then re-planted around 18 inches apart once the plant starts to mature (these plants can get quite large-and-in-charge!). Brussels Sprouts are a shallow-rooted vegetable so growing them in a raised garden bed is an excellent option!
Brussels Sprouts are quite a hardy little vegetable, they can survive even after the frosts have started and as long as they are getting regular watering (around 1-2 inches of water per week) and are getting at least 6 hours of sunlight per day there is no reason that they can’t survive throughout the season! That being said they aren’t indestructible, provided that the temperature at night does not dip below -2 degrees celsius (28 degrees fahrenheit) then your little Brussels should thrive!
Brussels Sprouts are incredibly easy to harvest! If you plant your sprouts from seeds they take approximately 80-90 days to ripen, but you can also visually tell when it’s time to pluck by measuring the diameter of the little sprout heads, once they are firm, ripe, and 1-2 inches in diameter then you know it’s time to start harvesting! To physically harvest your haul you are going to want to gently snip the sprouts away from the vine. This is also a good time to prune any yellowing leaves and lower sprouts to encourage further growth!
Recipe & Preparation Ideas
When one thinks of Brussels Sprouts the first preparation that springs to mind is that of them being boiled to within an inch of their lives and giving off a scent that can only be described as “eggy”, however this is truly the tip of the iceberg when it comes to preparing your sprouts! Below are some popular options (which all taste incredible with a little olive oil, sea salt, pepper, and paprika) are:
- Air frying them
- Oven baking them
- Barbecuing them
- Skewering them
- Searing and then roasting them (this is a popular technique used in restaurants)
Also, remember that you aren’t limited to the world of the noble “roast dinner”, the world is truly your Brussels Sprout when it comes to options (and why shouldn’t we compare them to the luxurious Lobster?), you could include them in tacos, as a pizza topping, in salads, basically anywhere that a vegetable can participate a Brussels Sprout will thrive!