Brussels Sprouts

← Return to A to Z

Brassica oleracea

Sustainable Ewe favourites:

Long Island Improved,  Red Ribs

Quick Reference

Optimum Soil Temperature 10 – 25°
Days to Germination 7 -10 days
Days to Harvest 120 days from transplant
Direct Sow or Transplant Transplant
Distance Apart 60-70 cm
Soil pH 6 – 6.8
Annual/Biannual/Perennial  Biannual (grown as an annual)


Known as the nerd of the vegetable family Brussels Sprouts are named for the city Brussels, Belgium where they were popular in the 16th Century.  However they originated around Afghanistan and Iran.  In 3000BC they were prescribed in China to treat bowel problems.  Crosses cut in the bottom of each sprout before cooking are said to aid in even cooking, however in the middle ages this was done to let the demons out.  Given the smell an overcooked Brussels Sprout gives off it is hardly surprising they had this notion!

Introduced to North America by French settlers in Louisiana in the 18th Century.

During the 1940s a Dutch botanist created the purple Brussels Sprout, a sweeter tasting sprout.

In 2010 Tozerseeds in the UK successfully created Kallettes, also known as Flower Sprouts.  A cross between Kale and Brussels Sprouts.


Brussels Sprouts are easy to grow however are less adaptable than cabbage when it comes to heat tolerance.  Preferring cooler temperatures plant in late summer or autumn.  The flavour of the sprouts will improve after frosts.  Protect from the wind, taller varieties may require staking.

Harvest from the bottom of the plant upwards, some varieties will resprout for an ongoing harvest.

Storing harvested Brussels Sprouts:  Keep well in the fridge for up to 10 days.  Can be blanched and frozen (good flavour).  Canned (fair flavour).  Dried (Poor flavour)

Seed Saving:  Requires an exclusion zone of at least 800 meters as it will cross pollinate with other oleraceas.  40 plants required for genetic diversity.  Insect pollinated.

Seed Life:  Five years

Fun Facts

There are over 110 varieties of Brussels Sprouts available worldwide.

They contain high levels of vitamin A, C and K, folic acid, calcium, and potassium as well as fiber and protein

High levels of antioxidant.

Said to lower cholesterol.

80 grams of sprouts contain four times the vitamin C of an orange.

As they are high in vitamin K they are not recommended for people taking anticoagulants just as Warfarin.

The heaviest Brussels Sprout was grown by Bernard Lavery in Wales in 1992.  It weighed 8.3kg

Overcooking makes them smell due to the release of high levels sulforaphane

In 2008 Linus Urbanec of Sweden made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for eating 31 sprouts in 1 minute.


Downy Mildew – pale spots or blotches on leaves. Possible mildew on underside of the leaves.  Space plants to allow for good air circulation.  Weed.

Potassium Deficiency – scorching or burning on leaf margins.  Poor quality hearts.

Magnesium Deficiency – yellowing between veins on older leaves.  Add fertiliser.

Molybdenum Deficiency – leaves thin and strap-like, poor growth.  Add fertiliser.

Boron Deficiency – hollow stems.  Add fertiliser

Bolting/Running to seed prematurely – cold weather followed by hot weather.  Root exposure

Club Root – plants stunted, deformed roots.  Add lime to soil.  Destroy diseased plants.  Ensure good drainage.  Crop rotation.

Excess Nitrogen – Brussels Sprouts loose and fluffy.  (Could also be caused by soil being too loose)


White Butterfly/Diamond Backed Moth – holes in vegetation in late spring, summer, autumn.  Protect young plants with insect mesh

Aphids – small insects clustered in developing heart or crown.  Keep plants well watered in dry weather

Slugs and snails – holes in leaves or stems in winter.  Digital removal (pick the bugs off), coffee grounds, ground egg shells said to be a deterrent.

Whitefly – underside of leaves covered with tiny white insects that will fly when disturbed.

Cover your garden with insect netting to avoid having your plants become a meal for caterpillars and bugs.  There are a variety of sprays and solutions (both organic and non-organic) such as Derris Dust or Quash available to combat such pests.

Companion Planting

Beans, Broad Beans, Bush Beans, Climbing Beans, Beets, Borage, Coriander, Cucumber, Dill, Marigold, Marjoram, Potato, Strawberry, Sunflower