Brussels sprouts are a winter vegetable of great worth, each stem a column of close-packed and firm buttons with a small loose cabbage or bunch of greens at the top. Brussels sprouts demand time in which to grow to near perfection. An open position and good, firm soil are prime requirements.
Varieties include Dwarf Gem (the earliest), Aigburth, and Matchless and Rearguard as late varieties.
An ounce of seed represents about 1,000 plants, and period of germination is about ten days.
Ready for Use.
November and continuing to March.
Heavy or medium soil, dug and manured for a previous crop, is the ideal. Light soils are made suitable by digging deeply and packing with rotted vegetable matter (leaves, weeds, lawn mowings, etc..) as long as possible before planting. If ground is newly dug it must be consoli- dated by rolling or treading (when it is not wet). A site vacated by another crop needs only to be forked over about 2 in. deep and weeds cleared away.
When and How to Sow.
Usual date for outdoor sowing is March, and again in April for a later batch. Sow on a seed bed with well-raked and crumbled surface, very thinly in A-in. deep drills a few inches apart. Well water a few hours before sowing if the soil is dry, and keep seedlings moist at the roots.
Transplanting, Planting Out.
The seedlings as soon as large enough to handle should first be transplanted, about 4 in. apart, into moist soil, then in May and June (latest ones in July) be planted where they are to remain, 2 ft. apart, in rows 2 ft. apart. Use a trowel, and leave each plant deep and very firm in the ground; soak with water if dry.
Sowing in Boxes.
Earliest sowing may be made on a sheltered but sunny piece of ground during February. Where conditions are not right for that, sow in seed boxes in a frame or greenhouse, or in a good bed of soil in the frame, which should face south and not be shaded. Sow thinly, keep the frame closed until seedlings appear, then ventilate when weather is mild. Close the frame at night and cover the glass with dry sacking, removing this in the morning.
Transplant the seedlings 4 in. apart each way, in the open, then 2 ft. apart each way in the prepared site.
Leggy Plants, Small and Loose Sprouts.
Unless allowed a long growing season, results may be poor – hence early sowing. And ground must be very firm, or growth will be over-tall and sappy, and the buttons anything but firm.
Running to Seed. Plants rush into flower (to produce seed) if there is not sufficient for them to live on down below. They find dry ground equally objectionable.
Small grey flies on the leaves cripple plants. To remove this pest, spray thoroughly and forcefully with salt water (a handful of agricultural salt dissolved in each bucket of water), or with soft soap and quassia solution. Other troubles are dealt with under cabbage tribe in chart.
In windy districts it may be necessary to stake the taller varieties when nearing full growth. Lengths of stout string run between end stakes will give the necessary support.
Gathering the Sprouts.
A hard frost improves eating qualities. Remove sprouts by cutting them from the stems with a knife; breaking them off may injure the stems.
Take the lowest first from all plants in bearing and work up the stems for subsequent pickings; do not strip a few stems completely. Sprouts evenly matched as to size cook better than a mixed batch. Use the top cabbage finally, when the last sprouts have been taken from the plant ( no).
Preparing for Table.
Remove outside leaves and discoloured ones, trim stalk ends close, wash die sprouts dioroughly, place in salt water for a few minutes, and finally wash in clear water before cooking. They contain salts and antiscorbutic vitamin, though actual food value is not high.