Most kids hate vegetables, and Brussels sprout has gotten their fair share of that detestation as well. You may also have memories of your mother force-feeding you Brussel sprouts when you were little. But, now that you’re older, it must surprise you to find out how yummy they taste when sauteed with some olive oil and a little bit of salt and pepper.
Want to learn more about these pretty veggies? What is the Brussels sprout plant, and where do they come from? What does it look like, and where does it grow. Keep reading, and you’ll find out all about this great vegetable.
Brassica oleracea, more commonly known as Brussel sprout, is a cute little vegetable from Brassica’s cabbage family. There are also tons of other members in the same family, including mustard, broccoli, and cauliflower. You may also be familiar with the name cruciferous.
|Common Name||Brussels Sprout|
|Botanical Name||Brassica Oleracea|
|Plant Type||An Annual|
|Size (Fully Grown)||30 Inches (76 cm) Tall, And 8 – 13 Inches (20 – 33 cm) Wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full Sun|
|Soil Type||A Fertile Soil That Drains Well But Also Retains Moisture|
|Soil pH||From 6.0 To 7.0|
|U.S. Hardiness Zones||2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, And 9|
|Native Area||The Mediterranean|
How Many Brussels Sprout Varieties Are There?
According to the world wide web, there are over 110 different varieties of this intriguing vegetable. Of course, each one will vary slightly in their growing habits, taste, and appearance. They may be suited to different climates, so make sure you’re growing the right one based on the growing conditions you have in your area. Below is a list of some of the most popular ones grown across the globe:
- Jade Cross
- Seven Hills
- Rubine Red
- Long Island
- Royal Marvel
- Prince Marvel
- Early Half Tall
- Tasty Nuggets
- Long Island Improved
Where Did The Brussels Sprout Originate From?
It might be surprising to know that unlike most vegetables, which have been cultivated almost since the beginning of time, Brussel sprouts are quite a new addition. There’s no trace of its cultivation or consumption before 400 to 500 years ago, as stated by the Michigan State University Extension.
As a matter of fact, the plant was developed in Brussels, Belgium, from wild Mediterranean kale. This is also why the vegetable is named after a city! The first written description of the vegetable dates back to 1587, according to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. But, it gained popularity among the general public much later than that. Even the most popular botanists of the 1600s described it as something they’re aware of but have never seen.
Since the vegetable is still new in its existence, its cultivation isn’t widespread in all parts of the world. During the 1800s, it had become quite popular in Belgium and France, and by the mid-1800s, it was quickly becoming a common veggie in England.
When Did Brussel Sprouts Come To America?
So when did the Brussels sprout cross the European borders? Americans were introduced to the Brussel sprouts back in the 18th century when the French immigrants brought the seeds to Lousiana. But, it did not gain widespread popularity until much later. The first commercial planting started on California’s Central Coast in the 1920s.
Today, there are several thousand acres of Brussel sprout plantings in California alone. Currently, China is the biggest producer of Brussel sprouts in the world. But let’s not forget that Russia, India, Korea, Japan, and the United States are also significant producers of this vegetable.
Picture It! – What Does A Brussels Sprout Plant Look Like?
With their distinct appearance, Brussel sprouts aren’t hard to recognize. During its early stages, the plant looks much like the regular cabbage. The central stem grows tall, up to a height of 2 to 3 feet (about 61 to 91 cm), and develops auxiliary buds throughout the length.
These buds grow into small cabbage-like heads. These heads or sprouts are the edible parts of the plant that we harvest for consumption.
The large, flat, dark green leaves in the shape of a hand grow out of the Brussel sprout stalk’s top part. They’re usually tossed in the bin since most people don’t know that the leaves are edible.
Quite similar in taste to collard greens, the leaves have a mildly sweet flavor with a touch of Brussels sprout. Since they’re softer than the collard greens, the cooking time is much shorter, which is another huge plus, especially if you want an instant side to go with your rice entrée.
The main edibles in this plant are the bright green sprouts growing out of the central stalk’s lower part. They look like mini cabbages, soft, crunchy, and savory, just like ordinary cabbage.
They might not taste that good if you eat them while they’re still raw, given the bitterness, but they taste sweeter and nuttier once cooked. The smaller sprouts are usually sweeter than bigger ones, and as they grow larger, they’ll turn bitter. This is also why most growers like to pick them while they’re still small.
Since Brussel sprouts are commonly grown as annuals, you won’t be seeing any flowers. The entire crop is harvested well before the flowering even begins.
If you leave the Brussel sprouts to grow for the second season (which is possible because it’s a biennial plant), you will see yellow flowers during the second season. The small flowers have four petals and bear silique fruits that enclose the seeds.
What Kind Of Conditions Suit Brussels Sprout The Best?
Brussels sprout is a cool-season vegetable that needs a long growing season before you can harvest the sprouts. Most varieties, like Bubbles, Rubine Red, and Valiant, take around 100-130 days to grow to maturity.
If you don’t want to wait that long or don’t have a long cool season in your region, you can go for one of the shorter season varieties. Varieties like Long Island Improved, Oliver, Prince Marvel, and Royal Marvel are ready for harvest in just about 80 to 90 days.
What Temperature Can Brussels Sprout Tolerate?
Brussel sprouts like to grow in cooler temperatures. The ideal temperature for producing them is in the range of 60 to 65°F (about 15,5 to 18°C). If the temperatures go beyond 70°F (about 21°C), there’s a risk that the plant starts to bolt.
Surprisingly, exposure to some light frost is good for mature sprouts. It sweetens their flavor and makes them even tastier. Warm temperatures before the harvest add bitterness to the taste and loosen the leaves.
As I’ve already highlighted, the sprouts like to grow at a cool temperature. If you have long winters in your region, time your planting such that the temperatures don’t go below 45°F (about 7°C) from seed to harvest.
Comparatively, if you live in a warmer climate, where the winters are too short, you may want to plant them in late summers for a winter harvest.
Plant them at a sunny spot in fertile, well-drained soil that’s moist and contains organic matter. Also, ensure that the soil pH is at least 6.0, but slight alkalinity is even better for their growth.
Light sandy soil won’t work well for the sprouts. Also, the soil should be slightly firm but not compacted for the Brussel sprouts to grow best.
Is It Safe To Eat / Consume Brussels Sprout?
Brussel sprouts are a healthy veggie when consumed in regulated amounts, much like all other vegetables. Moderation is the key. Too much of a good thing isn’t always good; the same is the story with our sprouts. If you are pregnant, have a medical condition, or have pets in your house, here’s how Brussel sprouts affect you:
Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women
There’s no information on whether Brussel sprouts’ heavy consumption is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women. To be on the safe side, consume it in food amounts only.
Brussel sprouts are healthy for your kids as long as you offer them to your kids in food amounts. Of course, heavy intake might result in gas, so avoid giving your children vast quantities if they have stomach problems.
People With Allergies
If you already have problems with plants like cabbage, cauliflower, mustard, broccoli, turnip, and rape, be careful with brussels sprouts too. Some of the symptoms you might experience if you are allergic to this vegetable include skin rashes, breathing difficulties, and headaches.
People With Diabetes
Because Brussel sprouts are high in fiber, and many studies also pack this, they can regulate your blood sugar levels, which means a healthier lifestyle for people with diabetes.
If you’re taking medicines to prevent blood clots, keep a check on your Brussel sprout intake. Together with Brussel sprouts, avoid taking large quantities of all those food items that include large concentrations of Vitamin K in them.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Since it’s high in fibers, a high intake of this vegetable can lead to digestive problems. Bloating, constipation, gas, stomachaches can result. If you already have IBS or similar issues, avoid eating Brussel sprouts together with other cruciferous vegetables.
Brussel sprouts are entirely safe for your pets. If your cats or dogs like snooping around your crops, you have nothing to worry about.
Featured image credit – © Sharpshot – stock.adobe.com