Brassica oleracea gemmifera
This species has been cultivated as a food crop for many hundreds of years and, in that time, several quite distinct forms have arisen. The nomenclature of these forms is confused, to say the least, and by no means universally accepted. We have followed the treatment used by GRIN, though it is very likely to be revised in the future[
Brassica gemmifera (DC.) H.Lév.
Common Name: Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts has been derived in cultivation from the wild cabbage. A biennial plant, it produces an elongated stem from which arise in each leaf axil buds of growth that look rather like miniature cabbage hearts; the plant can grow up to 120cm tall.
The plant is widely grown, mainly in the temperate zone, for its edible axillary buds which look rather like miniature cabbages.
A cultivated form of Brassica oleracea.
Not known in the wild.
Brussels sprouts have been developed in the temperate zone from the wild cabbage and are tolerant of quite cold winters. The plant grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 2 -20°c, but can tolerate 7 - 25°c[
]. A daily variation in temperature is required, with night temperatures of 16°c or lower[
]. When dormant, the plant can survive temperatures down to about -10°c, but young growth can be severely damaged at -5°c[
]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 900 - 1,600mm, but tolerates 500 - 3,000mm[
Succeeds in full sun in a well-drained fertile preferably alkaline soil[
]. Prefers a medium to heavy calcareous soil[
]. Succeeds in any reasonable soil. Succeeds in maritime gardens[
]. Prefers a pH in the range 6 - 7, tolerating 4.5 - 7.8[
Brussels sprouts are available to harvest from late autumn to late winter, there are many named varieties.
The flavour is said to improve and become sweeter after the plants have been hardened off by a sharp frost[
Yields of 8 - 12 tonnes per hectare may be obtained[
It is possible to bring the harvest period forward and produce more evenly spaced sprouts by removing the plants main growing point. Called 'stopping', it should be carried out when the lower sprouts reach a diameter of about 10mm. Late cultivars are unsuitable for this treatment[
Leaf buds - raw or cooked[
]. Well-grown plants produce an abundance of leaf-buds (looking rather like miniature cabbage heads) along the main stem at the leaf axils. These can be shredded and eaten raw in salads, though many people find them indigestible when eaten this way. They have a very nice cabbage flavour when cooked and are a very popular winter vegetable[
]. By careful selection of varieties, it is possible to harvest the buds from early September until late spring[
Grows badly with strawberries, each plant serving to retard the growth of the other[
]. Grows well with many aromatic herbs, these herbs help to repel insect pests[
]. Some other plants that grow well with Brussels sprouts include potatoes and celery[
Seed - sow in a seedbed outdoors in early spring. Plant out in early summer. In order to produce a larger or earlier crop, the seed can also be sown under glass in late winter and planted out in late spring. Do not let the seedlings get overcrowded or they will soon become leggy and will not make such good plants. If your seedlings do get leggy, it is possible to plant them rather deeper into the soil - the buried stems will soon form roots and the plant will be better supported.