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.