In Britain we of course grow Brussels sprouts, and for some reason they are at their most popular on Christmas Day. However my grandma would never touch them until they had been well and truly frosted, which was sometimes not near Christmas at all! We can of course get frosts at any time, but it is just he way the weather works, I am afraid. My grandma used to love the baby sprouts, for they are sweet, do not take long to cook and taste wonderful. Plus for some reason do not have the tsunami effect on ones stomachs and other parts, that older sprouts sometimes have.
My granddad used to grow them on his plot of land, and as the season neared its end, he would pick all the larger sprouts of the stem, leaving the young ones to grow. Then when he knew there was going to be a hard frost; he would dig up four or five plants, shake the soil off the roots then tie them all together with a bit of garden twine and hang them upside down on the outside of his shed. The frost would hit them overnight, and I used to rush out to see them with the white of the frost on them in the morning, and get them for my grandma!
My grandma had been Head cook for a large house during 1911-1921, and was amazing for her knowledge and skills. She taught me never to cross the bottoms of sprouts, for that made them cook to quick, although I still see top Chefs doing this. Grandma also told me to treat them like miniature cabbages, which is what they are, and to put a pinch of nutmeg in the boiling salted water, this kills the acid in the sprouts, then to add some winter savory, this herb adds a lovely taste and stops the weird smell you can get off them.
Timing was critical; my grandma used to have the water boiling with the spices and herbs in it, then the sprouts were put in for 6-7 minutes and boiled, she would then test one with a knife, if it was cooked they were drained immediately, if not left for another minute and tested again. The moment they were ready, quickly drained, put back into the hot pan and butter added with some finely ground black pepper.
The heat was turned off and it was my job to gently stir them, till they were all coated with butter, as the heat from the cooker, still melted the butter and kept them warm.
My nieces and my nephew, love the way I cook them, but came back after Christmas with horror stories of their other Aunts way of making them taste like they had been boiled to death, and they could not eat them.
Simply overcooked, no wonder they have a bad reputation. It is not the sprouts it is the cook!
timely re run of the article-and thanks Neil for your added commentary. I was about to try my luck with spring sprouts. I'll wait. The fresh ones have been really good, cooked just till done like other cabbage types vegetables, not simmered a long time like green beans can be.
That sallyg, is the only way to cook them. Because our sprouts are left in the ground over winter and harvested sporadically when the weather allows, the spring ones always taste the best.
Very, very interesting, Neil, thanks for the info.
My sprouts were so "open" last year that I had about decided
not to try them here. But now my son is at the military base in
Portsmouth, and he tells me about the weather there and in
London. London weather seems to be much like mine here
in North Carolina. I wonder if I could start sprouts in July , and
leave then in the garden all winter!!!!! I suppose some varieties
would be better than others for that
Dear Fitsy, I really do not trust the Zones as they do not work. Normally Sprouts over here are put in from early March till the end of April, depending on the weather!
However you do seem a bit warmer than us, so I cannot see why you cannot put them in a bit later, but July is pushing it I think. They are slow growing and need a long time, they are left outside in their plot all winter anyway!!! The harvesting times are from; last week in September right through, depending on the weather, till the end of March, and sometimes there are a few left in the first week in April. That is over here anyway. They as I stated are no use till they have had the frost on them.
Also I do not know what seeds you can get in the US, to what are available over here. I normally grow Rodnerf-early button, as it does not "blow" and has small tasty buttons.
By "blow" I mean to open up. I think that Thompson & Morgan do seeds in the US, however you would have to check that.
I am sure that you will find one in one of the catalogs to suit your needs.
One of the main disasters of sprouts is people putting them in a loose and not very fertile soil, it must be very firm (tread it down), and it must be organically rich!
Remember to stake them, as they are big heavy plants, and in high winter winds, will simply blow over!
Also protect them with a collar around the base of the stem, against cabbage root fly.
If you require any further help, please just ask.
Plant breeders have for many years concentrated on shelf life, looks, and disease resistance to the total exclusion of taste. I have recommended before the erection of a statue of the breeder of tomato Moneymaker, so that we can pelt it with the balls of wet cotton wool his masterpiece so closely resembles.
However, I make an exception for sprouts. Many of the modern F1s are a real improvement on the older open pollinated varieties. My own favourite is Trafalgar, which you can get frrom T & M, Kings, and several others.
Dear Pat, I agree totally about Moneymaker, however not about the statue, How about old fashioned stocks with a mixture of different heads in, that can be pelted with their rotten vegetables?
Trafalgar is a nice one, but as I do not know what (as stated), is available in the US, I just put down one I grow.
I do grow quite a lot of sprouts, some of the seeds I get from the local allotment society, so have no idea what they are, at all.
I have a confession to make fro I was brought up, in the north with leeks, which I adore.
Steak and leek pudding is a winter must for us!
Fitsy-- I have enjoyed fresh brussels so much lately that I plan to grow them this year--- figuring I'd start the seed in July here. I grew lettuce this past fall and it lasted well into December--I guess until our'freak' twenty inch snow before Xmas.