Growing Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts plants are initially started as seedlings prior to being planted in the field. Once planted, Brussels Sprout plants range anywhere from 110 to 130 days to produce a marketable sprout.

The individual sprouts form on the stalk of the plant from bottom to top. The sprouts at the bottom of the stalk mature earlier than the middle and top, therefore we harvest each stalk two to three times.

Brussels Sprouts are hand harvested. When mature, each sprout is plucked from the stalk by our employees and packed into cartons. Once packed, we cool the sprouts down to 33-34 °F and ship them out to be enjoyed.

What is a Brussels Sprout Anyway?

Brussels sprouts are cabbage’s delicious little cousin. Much like broccoli, Brussels sprouts are not found in the wild. Instead, these plants were created by crossbreeding different plant varieties. You may notice that Brussels sprouts look like tiny heads of cabbage. If that was your thought process, you are on the right track!

Sprouts are in the cruciferous family, and are related to cabbage and other leafy superfoods like kale and the German turnip, kohlrabi. Varieties of Brussels sprout plants were enjoyed as far back as Ancient Roman times, while the modern iteration of the Brussels sprout plant gets its name, and possibly its origin, from Brussels, Belgium.

  • Seedlings

  • Recently Planted

  • Stalk

How We Grow Brussels Sprouts

Traditionally grown in colder climates, Brussels sprouts are among several slow-growth vegetables that are harvested several times during the growing period. Because Ocean Mist Farms enjoys beautiful, temperate weather in both growing locations, we are able to grow and harvest these hearty vegetables year-round.

Colder climates have a growing season for Brussels sprouts that begins sometime before the end of Spring, and ends when the weather begins to cool. Depending on the growing zone, this could be anywhere from March, April or May, into September, October or November. Our growing locations in Castroville and Baja California allow us to grow the plants from July to January, and December to June, respectively. This allows us to provide fresh Brussels Sprouts even during winter time.

Brussels sprouts are a biennial crop. However, we replant them every year instead of allowing them to mature into the second year. The plant will produce the edible buds in the first year, but will flower during the second year. As it is the buds which are the desired part of the plant, a new crop must be cultivated each year.

A cousin to cabbages, Brussels sprouts are initially started as seedlings prior to being planted in the field. Seedlings are started indoors, where they are grown for several weeks. Indoor growing allows us to prepare the plants ahead of time in a controlled environment. Although this practice is commonly done to help avoid frost damage, Brussels sprouts are uniquely tolerant. Once the seedlings have been given several weeks to mature, the sprouts are then transplanted outdoors, where they are grown until harvest. We plant each sprout a few feet apart, enabling the sprouts to grow taller and produce more buds. Brussels sprout plants can range anywhere from 110 to 190 days to produce a marketable sprout.

A fully-mature Brussels sprout plant will be around 2.5 feet (76 cm) tall by the time it is ready to harvest. However, it is not the stalk that is desired, but the buds. The individual sprouts form on the stalk of the plant from bottom to top. The sprouts at the bottom of the stalk mature earlier than the middle and top sprouts. We therefore harvest each stalk two to three times. Multiple harvests help ensure that all of our sprouts are picked at their peak, avoiding the reputation for extreme bitterness that is common to commercially grown sprouts.

  • Brussels Field

  • Hand Harvest

  • Processing

Harvesting Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprout harvesting begins as soon as the bottom rows are ready. This is indicated by the look, feel and size of the sprouts. We typically begin harvesting when the sprouts have reached a deep green color, and are around 1 to 2 inches in diameter.

Brussels sprouts are hand harvested. When mature, each sprout is plucked from the stalk by our employees and carefully packed into cartons. The sprouts are twisted carefully from the stalk to prevent damage. Once packed, we chill the sprouts down to 33-34 degrees F and ship them out to be enjoyed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Sprouts grow directly on the stem of the plant. When all of the leaves have been removed, the Brussels sprout stalk provides a visual attraction unlike any other vegetable in a home garden. If you aren’t seeing any sprouts appear along the stem early on during the growing process, don’t worry. Early in the growing season, the sprout plant may not have any existing sprouts. As you plant matures, the sprouts will grow!

All of the sprouts on your plant will not mature at the same time. Sprouts grow from the bottom to the top; so most likely some sprouts will be mature when others aren’t quite ready. Thankfully, this does mean that you will be able to harvest sprouts over the course of a few months, with new sprouts growing in to replace the ones you’ve already removed.

Warm weather is the primary cause for loose heads on sprouts. Brussels sprout plants grow best in cool weather. If your sprouts are leafing loose heads, it means the weather has been too warm. This may mean that you planted your sprouts at the wrong time or during the wrong season.

When your sprouts are firm, deep green and 1-2 inches in diameter, it’s time to start harvesting!

Believe it or not, the flavor of Brussels sprouts actually improves with a good frost. Instead of harvesting as soon as your sprouts look ready, wait until after the first or second frost. Frost will remarkably improve the flavor, helping to add a bit of sweetness to your sprouts. If you’re used to bitter sprouts from the grocery store, now you know why. Many growers pick the sprouts all at once, before they’ve had the chance to get frosted!