Tip: Mon Petit Chou

growing winter vegetables

Since we are rolling into St. Patrick’s Day it seems like the right time to talk cabbage, specifically Brussels sprouts. In warmer climates we are getting ready to harvest our first round of these little guys. In colder climates, it’s the perfect time to plant Brussels sprouts in your garden.

I haven’t always like Brussels sprouts. In my youth, they were from the freezer section, overcooked (sorry, Mom) and really, really…stinky. But growing them in my garden changed my outlook completely. It’s worth it to give them a try, both in your garden and on your plate.

Last week in San Francisco, Brussels sprouts were featured on many of the menus—from battered and fried at Boulevard, to flash fried at Ame and back home, I love to feature them in a salad, like my Raw Brussels Sprout Salad with Blood Orange Dressing or simply roasted with a drizzle of olive oil, sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.

lamb sirloin and Brussels sprouts

Lunch at Boulevard

Brussels sprouts are ready to harvest when they are 1/2”-1 1/2” in diameter and are firm to the touch. Another bonus to growing your own are the big delicious leaves and crunchy stems. The leaves add an amazing sweetness and crunch to your salads and we munch on the stems for snacks.

Brussels sprout leaves

My current crop of Brussels sprouts seem to be doing well so far, but I recently stumbled upon some advice in 1001 Hints & Tips for Your Garden that I can’t wait to try out.

garden books

Brussels sprouts take up a lot of real estate in your garden, needing a full 24” for each plant. Lettuce and radishes will be happy under planted beneath your Brussels sprouts. You can also under plant herbs, especially mint which will keep those pesky caterpillars away.

Four to six weeks before your desired harvest, lop off the top leaves of the plant.  This will help your produce grow bigger in a uniform way, yielding bigger and prettier sprouts. Just remember not to throw those large leaves away, take them into the kitchen and eat them up!

winter vegetable garden

Alternately, you can remove the lower leaves by snapping them off and a few days prior to harvest to give them a little room to grow. I’m trying this tip right now. I’ll let you know if the “lower snap” or the big “lop off” works best.

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