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Flowers, Fruits, and Frass

Local and statewide information on a variety of current topics for home gardeners and market growers.
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The Beauty of Brussels Sprouts


Brussels Sprouts

"Brussels sprouts were the high point of numerous meals over my holiday season. I must admit I have never grown this delectable vegetable because it is known to be a slow-growing vegetable, but now have aspirations to make it part of my fall harvest this year," states University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup.

Brussels sprouts are a cool-weather crop best grown for harvest up through Thanksgiving. If they are started in the spring and mature in the summer the taste may become bitter. They grow best in mild temperatures and have improved flavors after light frosts. This light frost promotes the release of sugars, making the sprouts sweeter.

Start seeds in early May and set out transplants in May. You can also direct seed in late April. Fork in organic matter in the form of backyard compost or composted manure to the planting hole or row. Add mulch at time of planting to keep the roots cool and moist during the growing season. Plants should be placed 24 inches apart. Brussels sprouts need ample water during the heat of summer and can benefit from a starter fertilizer at time of planting. Apply fertilizers again when plants are 12 inches tall and again every three to four weeks.

Some of the same pests that attack cabbage and broccoli can be an issue for Brussels sprouts. Gardeners can use floating row covers to protect these vegetables while they are small. Look out for cabbage worms, cabbage loopers and aphids.

Cutting off tops of plants or pinching when sprouts begin initiates an early harvest but may reduce yield. Harvest can begin after the first frost when the sprouts are about ¾ of an inch to two inches in diameter and bright green. Make successive harvests from the base to the top as sprouts mature. As you harvest, remove the lower leaves.

A new plant on the market is called Kalettes and they are a combination of Brussels sprouts and kale.

University of Illinois Extension Nutrition and Wellness Educator, Jenna Smith suggests roasting, sautéing and grilling Brussels sprouts to caramelize their natural sugars and bring out a slightly sweet flavor. To prepare sprouts, wash and pat dry, trim off any stem, and halve lengthwise. To roast or grill, toss sprouts with olive oil, salt and other seasonings as desired. Roast in a preheated oven at 425 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or grill in a grill basket or on skewers for six minutes, turning halfway through. Sautéing is another easy method; heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, add sprouts, season and cook for 8 to 10 minutes.

For further information please contact: Kelly Allsup, Extension unit educator, Horticulture-Livingston, McLean and Woodford Unit at (309) 663-8306 or email Kelly at kallsup@illinois.edu



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