The Brussel sprout is a vegetable that produces green, delicious buds. Do you plant your own Brussel sprouts in your garden? If you do, that’s awesome. Not only the buds are delicious, they are nutritious as well, making them a great addition to your dish. And since you are growing them yourself, you can get the buds fresh.
Here in this article, we will tell you the proper way of harvesting Brussel sprouts. Growing your Brussel sprouts properly gives you the best yields. Of course, to get the best result, you need to harvest the buds properly, too. Before we tell you the proper way to harvest, let’s start with things to do before harvesting first.
Things to Do Before Harvesting Brussel Sprouts
You cannot get good yields if you don’t grow your Brussel sprouts properly. Also, do know that it takes time before the plants will be ready to harvest (the lengths depend on the variety), so a bit of patience will certainly be needed. Below are some of the things you should do to get the best yield from your Brussel sprouts.
1. Removing leaves that turn yellow
Pruning goes a long way in ensuring the best yields. So, long before harvesting brussel sprouts, be sure to prune your plants. The pruning can be as simple as removing leaves that turn yellow.
2. Removing the entire lower leaves
Alternatively, you can remove the entire lower leaves of a plant regardless of the leaves’ color. Whether the lower leaves are green or turning yellow, removing them will direct the plant’s energy towards producing buds. If you do this, you will notice you get better yields when you are harvesting brussel sprouts.
3. Keeping the larger, upper leaves intact
While you can remove the entire lower leaves of the plant, never remove the entire larger upper leaves. The Brussel sprout plants need some of its leaves for photosynthesis.
4. Increasing the bud production by “topping” the plant
Topping is done when the buds are developing and have yet to reach maturity. It is done by cutting off the plant’s growth tip. As the growth tip is cut off, the plant redirects its energy from leaves to the buds. As a result, both buds production and size are increased.
5. Cooking the removed young leaves
Yes, you can cook Brussel sprout leaves. Not all leaves are equal, however. Baby leaves have a similar flavor to kale, while older ones tend to have a bit bitter flavor. Alternatively, you can use the leaves as compost.
The Right Time for Harvesting Brussel Sprouts
Harvesting brussel sprouts properly is not possible if you don’t know the right time for it. Well, no need to worry about that. We will tell you the right time to harvest shortly. What you need to know is that Brussel sprouts can survive snow and some frosts even without any protection due to them being a cool-weather crop.
1. Allow some light frosts
So when is the right time for harvesting brussel sprouts? The right time will be in the fall, especially after the plants have faced several light frosts. While frosts hinder or halt the development of other plants, not so with Brussel sprouts. If anything, frosts improve the flavor of Brussel sprouts.
2. Frosts improve the buds’ flavor
How do frosts improve the flavor of Brussel sprouts? This happens due to the drop in temperature, which then triggers the plant to use its energy to produce sugar. The sugars within the plant act as a natural antifreeze as they lower the freezing point of the plant cells’ liquid.
It takes around 100 days for a Brussel sprout plant to be harvest-ready. The exact date depends on the variety, however. Some varieties grow and become harvest-ready faster (some varieties need less than 90 days) than the others. Regardless of the time for maturation, you want to harvest the buds before they turn yellow and start to open.
3. Theharvest-readiness of the buds
Ideally, harvesting brussel sprouts should be done when the sprouts are 1 to 1.5 inches in diameter, firm, and have a bright green color. You don’t need to harvest the buds all at once. Why? Because the buds might reach maturity differently and thus, become harvest-ready at different times. So, pick them off individually, depending on their harvest-readiness.
4. Continuous yields to harvest
When it comes to harvesting brussel sprouts, you can do it continuously. That is, as long as the stalk produces buds. When you pick the buds, new ones will grow to replace them. This should happen until the weather becomes warmer, by which the plant will bolt and stopped producing buds.
Varieties and How Long They Take to Harvest
There are plenty of Brussel sprouts varieties. How long it takes for each variety to mature is different from another. To help you become better prepared for harvesting brussel sprouts, below are some of the popular varieties and the time it takes for them to be harvest-ready.
- Bubbles, Valiant: 110 days
- Catskill, Early Half Tall, Jade Cross, Oliver, and Prince Marvel: 90 days
- Long Island Improved and Seven Hills: 95 days
- Royal Marvel, 85 days
- Rubine Red: 105 days
Harvesting Brussel Sprouts: How to Do It Right
Now that you know when to harvest the buds, it is time to tell you how to do it properly. Keep in mind that you can continuously harvest the buds. As such, knowing the proper way of harvesting brussel sprouts is especially important. You want to get the best yields in the best possible amounts.
1. Harvesting bottom up
Harvesting brussel sprouts are done from the lowest buds then upward, until the top. This follows how the buds mature. Since the buds mature bottom-up, so harvest them bottom up too. Start harvesting the mature buds on the lowest part and move your way up from there.
2. How to do pick the buds off
You can either cut, snap or twist the buds off at the part where the stem meets the sprout. If you choose to cut, make sure the knife you are using is clean and sharp. Harvesting brussel sprouts should be done before the buds begin to turn yellow as they will become tough and have a bitter flavor.
3. In case you don’t prune the plants
In case you don’t prune or top the leaves, you can do so during the harvesting period. To encourage upward growth and more buds, remove the lower leaves underneath the sprouts that you harvest. Tidy the plants up and keep removing the leaves underneath the sprouts you pick as you harvest.
4. Continuous growth
As you are harvesting brussel sprouts, the new buds will grow quickly. However, as the weather starts to get colder and colder, the growth and production will slow down. If there is a hard freeze or if the temperature is below freezing point continuously, the growth of the buds will stop.
5. Harvesting all at once
Harvesting brussel sprouts all at once is a viable way to harvest, too. To do this, wait until a stalk is filled with mature sprouts. Then, prepare your sharp knife and cut the stalk. Try to cut the stalk as close to the ground as possible. Want to do it quicker? Grasp firmly then pull the stalk out of the ground.
Once you’ve cut or pulled the stalk, cut or twist off the individual sprouts. If there are any rotten or yellowing sprouts, discard them. As for the fibrous stalk, you can eat them if you want to. Just remove the stalk’s woody outer layer. Just like a broccoli stalk, you can cook a Brussel sprout stalk in many ways.
6. Dealing with a hard freeze
In case before the end of the harvest a hard freeze is forecasted in your area, lift the entire plant, root and all. Put it in an unheated shed or a cold frame. The harvesting process can be completed there. To prevent the plant from drying out, pack earth around its roots.
Things to Know about Harvesting Brussel Sprouts
- A single plant can produce up to 100 sprouts.
- The harvest can last as long as six to eight weeks.
- The first sprouts you harvest tend to be less flavorful than the last ones.
- Not only the sprouts can be harvested, but the tender green leaves can also be harvested. Those tender green leaves can either be cooked (like you would collards) or eaten as greens.
- Warm temperatures will cause the sprouts to have a strong flavor and loose leaves.
- Cool temperatures will sweeten the sprouts’ flavor.
- When cutting the sprout from the stem, cut it close enough but not too close.
- Harvesting is best done during cool days, regardless of the variety of Brussel sprout you plant.
Storing Your Harvest
Unless you are planning to cook immediately after harvesting brussel sprouts, you need to store them. Of course, you want to store them and keep them fresh as long as possible. Here’s how to do it.
- Store the sprouts somewhere moist and cold. Ideally, the storage should have a temperature range between 32 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 95% relative humidity.
- When storing sprouts, store them unwashed. Wrap them in a moist towel then place the towel inside a perforated plastic bag. Put the bag in the refrigerator’s vegetable crisper section. This should keep the sprouts fresh for about three to five weeks.
- You can choose either to store the sprouts together in a whole stalk or individually. In case you want to store a whole stalk, wrap the stub around with a moist paper towel. Doing so will extend storage.
- If you live in an area with a very cold winter, you can dig up and relocate some of the plants into containers or a cold frame in your basement or garage. You can then harvest the sprouts there for a few months.
- Until you are ready to use them, do not wash the sprouts.
- If there are any discolored or loose outer leaves, remove those leaves from the stems before storing them.
- Even if you don’t do any extra care, harvesting brussel sprouts is a continuous process. It is possible to prolong the harvest, however. How? By overwintering the plants.
- To overwinter Brussel sprout plants, mulch the plants heavily before a deep freeze. The mulching should be done around the base of the plants. Place a layer of hay or stray and mound it up to the top leaves. When you want to harvest the sprouts, just move the mulching material away.
- Mulching protects the plants from the cycles of freezing and thawing, which can cause the plants’ cells to breakdown and rot.
- No need to worry if it snows before a deep freeze. Snow will cover the mulching material and act as insulation for the plants.
- Once spring is approaching, the plants will immediately bolt. They will start growing flower stalks instead of sprouts.
Homegrown Harvest that Everyone Can Enjoy
Brussel sprouts are tasty, especially fresh ones. If you have one or two family members who don’t like them that much, they will probably like them once they have tasted homegrown, fresh sprouts that you just harvest. Besides its delicious taste, Brussel sprouts are nutritious, too. So yes, they make a good addition to your dishes.
Brussel sprouts are versatile when it comes to cooking. You can them in many ways. For example, you can oven roast them, roast them with garlic, roast them with bacon, make sautee, braise, and even broil them. That’s just how versatile the sprouts are. You have varieties of recipes to try.
The harvesting process can involve the family members, too. Invite and involve your kids during the harvesting process. Let them pick off the harvest-ready sprouts or pull the strange-looking stalks up from the ground. That kind of activity is fun and who knows, it may even encourage the kids to eat their greens too.
Like growing, harvesting Brussel sprouts properly is needed if you want the best yields. And now that you know how to, harvesting shouldn’t be a problem. Brussel sprouts taste best when they are fresh, so after you harvest them make sure to use them as soon as possible. If you can’t, store them properly so they can last long.