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a vegetable with a flavor like that of mild cabbage
The Brussels sprouts plant sends up a tall, thick stalk along which the sprouts grow closely together. The earliest sprouts form near the ground. Later in the season, others appear farther up the stalk. Each sprout looks like a tiny head of cabbage.
Brussels sprouts do best where the growing season is long and cool. They are planted in nursery flats in the late winter, from January through May, and spend their first 50 to 60 days in the nursery. The seedlings are then transplated into fields on 36-inch beds at spacings of 13 to 16 inches apart. The plants are "topped" 50 to 60 days prior to harvesting -- the terminal bud is pinched off by hand to prevent the plant from growing taller and to send the plant's energy into the development of the Brussels sprouts. The sprouts form at the base of each leaf petiole, in a spiral along the stem. Each plant grows from 2.5 to 3.5 feet tall, and can yield 80 to 100 sprouts.
Just prior to harvest the leaves are cut off by hand. The harvest itself is usually done by a combine-like machine which cuts the plant off at the ground and feeds it through a stripping head, which removes the sprouts from the stalk.
Sprouts were believed to have been cultivated in ancient Rome, and perhaps as early as the 1200's in Belgium. The modern Brussels sprouts we know today was first cultivated in large quantities in Belgium as early as 1587. Introduced into the United States in the 1800's, they were first grown in California in the early 1900's. Although there are currently less than 3,000 acres of Brussels sprouts under cultivation in California, that acreage accounts for the majority of the U.S. production from June through January, with nearly all of the acreage located in the central coast region.
family Cruciferae (mustards)
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This page was last updated on 10/30/2017.