The sturdy little ones of Brussels

Brussels sprouts

Who remembers the date on which ingenious gardeners from Saint Gilles, near Brussels, obtained this new cabbage hybrid ? Small, of course, but very tough. They offer the advantage of not fearing frost and can withstand minus fifteen degrees Celsius. They even gain in flavor in the heart of winter, because their taste is all the sweeter.

Have you ever seen Brussel sprouts in the vegetable garden? They look like small palm trees whose green apples are found under the leaves. The stems can rise up to one meter above the ground and the leaves then open out in a rosette, nicely curved. These plants are a feast for the eyes, even if the fingers that pluck them, are numb from the cold. Over the weeks, the cabbage stem will grow. The riper “apples” are the bottom ones while the top ones continue to grow. So you can pick them when needed. Among the many varieties of Brussels sprouts, you can choose to plant ‘Précoce de Fontenay’, ‘Royal Marvel’ which easily reaches one meter in height, but produces very small tasty “apples”.

Brussels sprouts don’t require much maintenance. As they grow slowly, they need less water and poor soil is enough for them. It is even better to avoid bringing them fertilizer, as this would promote the growth of foliage to the detriment of the small edible apples. Sown in April or May, one has to make sure to space them sixty centimeters in all directions.  From the nurseries, the baby plants are transplanted when they have three or four leaves. And since they take six months to grow, carrots and lettuce have time to grow at the feet of the Brussel sprouts, while waiting for fall. They can also be buttered in the spring like potatoes but, unlike the latter, which are ready to be eaten from July, crucifers only bear fruit from November to April.Once harvested, I challenge you to forget the bad memories of the school canteen where the poor boiled Brussel sprouts can be squashed in a second. To avoid this bad experience, I would suggest another recipe: you can slice them in half, fry them with butter in the pan. It’s a delight!On the top of that, thanks to their high amount of antioxidants, very rich in vitamin C, they can help you to keep you younger by strengthening the immune system. Brussels sprouts are therefore an excellent way to start the year without getting a wrinkle.