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Brussels sprouts got their name because they were first cultivated in 16th century Belgium, Brussels being the country’s capital. Since you’re reading this, you’ve probably discovered they’re as fun to grow as they are to eat. But how do you know when Brussels sprouts are ready to harvest?
Knowing how to harvest Brussel sprouts is key to getting the most tender, flavorful heads. However, planting them at the right time and pruning them is also important. In this article, I’ll explain all of these things, as well as how to store your sprouts.
Have Them Mature In Cool Weather
To harvest the tastiest Brussels sprouts, you have to plant them at the right time.
The key to getting firm, sweet heads is letting them mature in cool or even frosty weather. In contrast, hot or dry weather can make them bitter.
Sustained temperatures over about 70 F (21 C) may cause Brussels sprouts to bolt; temperatures between 60 F (16 C) and 65 F (18 C) are ideal.
Though you can plant Brussels sprouts in early spring, it’s generally better to plant them in the late summer or early fall. You can determine the best time for your region by finding its average first frost date and counting backward by the number of days your variety needs to mature.
Brussels sprouts can also be grown through winter, but only if they’re protected from freezes and getting buried in snow. This option is better for warm climates.
To avoid the unpredictability of weather, you can always grow your Brussels sprouts indoors. Read my article on this subject to learn how.
When you start seeing sprouts on your plant, remove about eight lower leaves. This will concentrate its energy on the sprouts.
Every Brussels sprout plant has an upper growing tip. If you remove this tip, the plant will focus its energy on growing bigger sprouts.
Do this with clean pruning shears when the sprouts are 0.5 – 1 inch (1.27 – 2.54 centimeters) in diameter. The Wisconsin Vegetable Gardener demonstrates the process:
This method can also make your sprouts mature more quickly, which is great when a hard freeze is coming.
When you start harvesting sprouts, remove yellowing leaves while you’re at it. This will help the stalk receive more sunlight and focus its energy on new growth.
How To Harvest Brussel Sprouts
When Brussels sprouts are firm, green, and 1 – 2 inches (2.54 – 5.08 centimeters) in diameter, gently twist them off the stalk.
You can harvest sprouts while the plant is still growing or, if you prefer, all at once. The lower sprouts mature first, so you can harvest those and come back for the others when they mature.
Hollis & Nancy’s Homestead demonstrates their all-at-once method:
Cleaning And Storage
You can clean Brussels sprouts by trimming their ends with a knife and rinsing them in cold water. However, The Old Farmer’s Almanac recommends rinsing Brussels sprouts right before using them, not before storing them.
If you won’t eat your Brussels sprouts right away, here’s how to prepare them for your fridge or freezer:
Refrigerating Brussels Sprouts
After rinsing them, put your Brussels sprouts in a colander and pat them dry with a clean towel. Put them in a resealable bag. Then, store the bag in your refrigerator’s crisper or veggie drawer. Use the sprouts within a week and a half.
Freezing Brussels Sprouts
Blanching your Brussels sprouts before freezing them will preserve their color, taste, and nutrition.
To do it, you will need a:
- Pot of boiling water
- Large bowl of ice water
- Freezer bag
Follow these steps:
- Boil the Brussels sprouts for four minutes.
- Put them in the strainer.
- Dump them in the ice water to stop the cooking process.
- Put them in the colander and pat them dry to prevent ice crystals and damage to their texture.
- Put them in a freezer bag.
- Store them in your freezer.
*Cooking tip: Cook frozen Brussels sprouts without thawing them. Otherwise, they’ll be mushy.
How do you know when to harvest Brussel sprouts?
You can harvest Brussels sprouts when they’re 1 – 2 inches in diameter by twisting them off the stalk. The lower sprouts mature faster; you can either pick sprouts as they mature or harvest them all at once.
How many times can you harvest Brussel sprouts?
Enjoy Your Home-Grown Brussels Sprouts!
Again, here’s how to harvest Brussel sprouts:
- Gently twist them off the stalk when they’re 1 – 2 inches in diameter.
- For the tastiest sprouts possible, have them mature in cool weather.
- Prune the plant so it can focus its energy on the sprouts. Here are some good pruners for the job:
And of course, you should store Brussels sprouts properly if you won’t eat them right away:
- Don’t rinse Brussels sprouts before refrigerating them. Instead, rinse them right before using them.
- Before you freeze Brussels sprouts, blanch them.
- Cook frozen sprouts without thawing them first.
Have questions? Please let me know in the comments!
Featured image credit: Bob
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Last update on 2021-01-15 at 12:59 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API