There are many good reasons to grow brussels sprouts in your home garden. These are plants in the mustard family along with their cousins, cabbage, broccoli, and leafy greens such as arugula.
Brussels Sprouts tend to like to grow during the cooler portion of fall and sometimes into spring if your winter is not very cold. In this blog, we look at the benefits of growing Brussel Sprouts and discuss some of the ways to do just that.
How and Why to Grow Brussels Sprouts
The Nutritional Value in Brussel Sprouts
These small mini cabbage lookalikes are loaded with healthy goodness. They are a sink for vitamin C. A single cup of raw Brussels Sprouts offers 125% of the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for vitamin C. They also are a good source of vitamin A at 13 percent of your RDA. Additionally, they provide iron and calcium at 7 percent and 4 percent respectively.
These are considered a healthy food because they have zero fat and offer 38 calories, 8 carbs, and 3 grams of protein per one cup servings raw.
It would be difficult to gain a full 2,000 calories from just brussels sprouts but that should not be the goal. These are cool winter/fall vegetables that offer an easy to grow food source when many summer plants will not grow or produce.
That means that these are a way to keep fresh food around during the off seasons. Even in colder climates, with a little shelter, these plants should maintain.
These are a plant that should go on your list of growable vegetables for two reasons. They help you add to your food stores during the offseason, and they are healthy food with many options for storing them after harvest.
What Can You Do with Brussels Sprouts?
Technically, these are a vegetable that you could can but they tend to become soggy and messy if you do. The preferred way to store them is to roast them and freeze them or to pickle them. Pickling is an amazing way to store food and you can vary the recipe to suit your lifestyle. Those variations include sweet to hot or traditional pickle flavor.
Freezing is another option and that process works best if you roast the sprouts first. We start that process on a gas grill. Place the washed and prepped sprouts into a cast iron skillet or pan. We use cast iron because it can take the direct heat.
Add in a light coating of olive oil and turn the grill to low heat. Turn the sprouts as needed. Cook until you can insert a fork easily but not so long that the spouts fall apart. The goal is to keep them solid, but soft. This process allows you to spice the spouts as needed.
We coast the cooked sprouts in olive oil and place them in a freezer bag and then freeze them. The oil helps to preserve the sprouts from the cold and it also infuses with the spices, salt or garlic that you add during the roasting process.
These are also a plant that is wonderful as microgreens, especially in mixed salads.
In terms of a prepping food source, the goal would be to supplement existing food supplies. Freezing and pickling help to preserve food from six months to a year – sometimes longer. The goal here is to build short-term food supplies that help to extend your long-term food stores or to provide food in the event that local food is no longer available.
How to Grow Brussels Sprout
In general, it takes around 100 days from planting seeds to harvest. That time-frame differs between cultivars. If you live in an area where the growing season is short, pay close attention to Days-to-Harvest as you might find a variety of Brussels Sprouts that has a shorter Days-to-Harvest time.
The tradeoff is that you will be able to grow these wonderful veggies, but the fruit is often smaller. Do a little bit of research and find a variety that fits your growing area.
Plan Your Growing Space
Brussels Sprouts are large plants. They grow 2-3 feet in height and develop a 2-3-foot canopy of leaves. The fruit grows on the stalks of the plants, so the taller the plant the better the harvest. As such, plan on a 3 square foot growing space for each plant. You can tuck them into a 2×2 foot growing space if needed.
10-15 plants will provide a lot of food for a small family. If you are planning to on growing food for storage, plan on 15-25 or more plants.
Brussels Sprouts thrive in alkaline soil. If you are amending your soil aim for a pH of about 5.5-6.5. These are also plants that do well in moist but not overly wet soil. You can create sol that holds moisture but still drains by adding in compost and organic matter.
The trick here is to balance the ratio of compost with your desired pH. Another option is to add in perlite. You can find horticultural perlite online, at local nurseries, and sometimes at building supply stores too. We prefer to use horticultural grade perlite over regular perlite.
Brussel Sprouts will tolerate a wide range of soils, but for them to thrive, aim for soil that is alkaline and that retains moisture.
You can plant seeds directly in the soil in warmer climates or start them indoors in trays. Seeds need to be planted about ½ inch in depth and the growing media needs to be able to retain moisture. Seeds take 7-10-days to germinate.
Sow seeds about 1-inch apart in trays and a sparse row if sowing them directly in the soil. You will need to thin the row or transplant the seedlings to 2-3 feet apart when they reach the 5-inch mark.
Space seedlings 2-3 feet apart in soil that is moisture retentive. It is helpful to grow these plants in small hills or rows that are around 1-foot in height. Doing so allows the roots to grow deeper and to help keep the plant hydrated.
Brussels Sprouts grow large and produce a huge canopy of leaves. All of that growth and the thick stalk requires a lot of water which is why the soil must retain moisture. Be sure to water often so that soil does not dry out but not so much that the soil becomes waterlogged.
Harvesting Brussels Sprouts
There are two main philosophies when it comes to harvesting most vegetables. The first is to harvest the entire crop and the second is to selectively harvest what you need. With Brussels Sprouts, you can opt to harvest using either method. Your goal should be to utilize the space and the crop in such a way that best fits your food storage and food production plans.
I have a huge growing space, so I use both methods. I have the space to grow enough Brussels Sprouts to harvest a lot at one time and to have a smaller space that is more like a traditional garden. There, I selectively harvest for daily food needs. If you opt to roast and freeze your Brussels Sprouts, then you can also selectively harvest as the roasting process does take some time.
Brussel Sprouts are ready when the flower/blub is firm and the outer leaves are starting to open. To harvest them, take a very sharp knife and just slice the mini cabbage from the stem.
If you are harvesting the entire plant, you can lop off the canopy and split the stalk down the middle. I find this makes it easier to remove the fruit from the stalk.
Preparing Fresh Brussel Sprouts
Traditionally, people have steamed Brussels Sprouts and eaten them that way. We like to roast them in a little butter and a lot of garlic with a dash of salt and pepper. These are a highly versatile vegetable that goes well with Ranch dressing or other dipping sauces. Cook until tender but not soggy.
Stove Top Cooking
- Two cups of washed and prepared Brussel Sprouts
- 1 tbs of olive oil
- 1 tbs of butter
- ¼ cup of water
Place the Spouts in a pan with a lid. Add the olive oil and the Sprouts then the water. Add the butter to the top of the Sprouts. Cook on low heat until the water evaporates. The Sprouts can fry lightly in the oil until you can stick a fork in them easily. Season to taste.
There are a lot of reasons to add Brussels Sprouts in your home garden. As plants, these are fairly easy to grow if you set up your soil to help them thrive. These are also plants that withstand the cold and in really cold winters where the temperature gets to freezing, these do well with a light cover.
If you are concerned about food security, growing your own food makes a lot of sense. From a homesteading perspective, a disaster garden is a way of life. We grow around 75 percent of the food we consume and supplement with local goods.
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