Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Brussels Sprouts Longing

Churchill and Catskills varieties of brussels sprouts.
Three years of growing brussels sprouts and we have yet to get a sprout. The greens from the brussels sprouts are very delicious, so the crop is not a waste.

But we want sprouts.

Falstaff brussels sprouts.
My hubby thinks maybe we shouldn't harvest leaves, that maybe removing the leaves discourages the sprouts. However, removing the lower leaves was recommended in "Astrological Gardening," by Louise Riotte, to encourage sprouts. My online research also found that commercial growers strip their plants of leaves, and then at some point "top" them (cut out the top growing tip) to encourage all sprouts to mature at once.
After all that research, I have concluded that timing is the problem for us. I harvest the leaves just when little sprout buds start to form, but I should wait until they are obviously forming sprouts. And I plant too late.
Brussels sprouts require a long growing season, at least 90 days after transplant. While I had intended to plant my homegrown transplants in the garden in July (as Mrs. Riotte recommended), I just couldn't bring myself to expose the young plants to the 100-degree highs that we had every day in July. So I waited until early August, when it had cooled into the 90s.

Previous fall plantings had been done at the end of August and early September. Brussels sprouts are best when they mature in cool weather, so planting them really early in the season might get you sprouts (if you don't overcrowd them), but they don't taste as good as they do after a frost.

During a recent gathering with some friends, who also are avid gardeners, my husband turned the conversation to brussels sprouts. He always likes to get another opinion besides mine.

Could these be sprouts?!? Be still my pounding heart.
One person said she's never grown brussels sprouts because she'd always heard they were very finicky. The other one said that she gets sprouts. She plants them out in March, and she agreed, they do taste better once we've had a frost.

I know I need to plant them earlier, but do I really need to plant them in March? Or should I stick with the recommended mid-July planting date? Maybe do something in between, like May? Perhaps I should divide the crop up between all three planting dates.

And yet, it looks like maybe we will get sprouts... maybe. I saw some tiny sprouts on at least one plant today. Sprouts or no sprouts, they won't last past the point when the temperatures hit 20 degrees F. I will harvest what I can, sprouts and/or greens, when that time comes. For now, we'll harvest a few greens at a time and hope for sprouts.

No comments: