Love them or loath them? The marmite of the vegetable world, the Brussels sprout. I am an unashamed lover of a well cooked (and by that I mean not boiled within and inch of its life) sprout. The only thing that does annoy me a little bit about them is the need to peel them but I can live with that.
The majority of sprouts you buy today are F1 hybrids and are bred (like many other vegetables ) to contain more sugar and less bitter. However the cancer fighting nutrition in the sprout and other brassicas is one of the things that tends to make them bitter . Gluconsinolates and isothiocyanates, the molecules in question are a deterrent to pests but suppresses cancer cells in us, the bitterer the better. So, I’m afraid when it comes to vegetables ,the healthiest thing to do is to learn to love bitter.
Attwood have been my first non flower sprout (a cross between sprouts and kale) success. The weather amping other things was very unusual in 2020, a very hot dry spring, very late frosts and a damp muggy summer and huge amounts of rain and cold in the winter. Despite that the Attwood have soldiered on producing a small but decent crop with a good flavour.
In the kitchen
Attwood provided lots of small neat sprouts. The flavour is good, not bitter and would stand up well against a supermarket sprout.
I like my sprouts steamed for 5-10 minutes depending on size and dressed with a little butter and sometimes lemon. You could substitute them for Kale in Kale Bhajias or Singapore Noodles With Crispy Tofu or shred them instead of cabbage in Vegetable Spring rolls or Summer Rolls
Yield and plant health
Attwood has an RHS award of garden merit at the time of writing. Each stalk yielded about 30 small sprouts. There are higher yielding varieties, not necessarily due to the number but the size of the sprout, however these varieties are often F1 hybrids which do not breed true to type so you cannot save seed from them.
The plants have stood well through the winter and none have blown.
I had some slug damage and plants need to be protected from cabbage white butterfly and there is no cubroot or cabbage white fly resistance.
Brussels spouts tend to split in to two groups earlies which will be ready in September to December and lates which are hardier and harvested from December to March. For very early crops sow an early variety under glass in February, otherwise sow March to April.
You can start sprouts in pots in a green house or outdoors. Sow 1cm deep. In pots sow 1-3 seeds in a 3 inch pot. Outdoors sow thinly in rows 15cm apart. Thin seedlings to one every 7cm or 1 per 3 inch pot. Water lightly until it is time to plant out.
Once the plants have several true leaves plant out in final positions. Sprouts are not too fussy about sunlight but they do need a firm soil so you might struggle with a very sandy soil. In May to early June you will want to plant the sprouts in to their final positions. Harden off indoors plants for a week by leaving them outside during the day and bringing back in at night. Plant out leaving 60cm in either direction. It can be helpful to stake sprout especially if you are on a windy site. They will appreciate a feed of blood fish and bone or another organic fertiliser in the spring and a mulch to conserve water. Commonly growers would sprinkle a little lime on the soil before planting as this helps to avoid club root but also sprouts like a slightly alkaline soil. If you want to do this though do it sparingly and follow manufacturing guidelines. Calcified seaweed and ground chalk are preferable to organic growers. Always wear a face mask and gloves when sprinkling lime and follow manufacturing instructions. Water in well and make sure that they are well watered until established. After this water only if it has been dry for several weeks.
Brassicas can fall victim to cabbage white butterfly or birds. Grow under butterfly netting to avoid this, making sure the netting does not touch the cabbage.
There are three major issues that can affect sprouts, cub root and cabbage root fly.
Blowing is when the sprout button begins to prematurely open so do not form tight little heads. This is mainly caused by soil that is too loose or lacking in nutrition. Firm sprouts in well and ensure your soil is in good heart by mulching every year.
Cub root is a fungal infection that affects grown. Roots will look swollen and distorted and cabbages will fail to thrive. Once on your plot you should not grow brassicas there for up to 20 years. If that is not possible then there are resistant varieties. Raising the PH of the soil with lime also helps.
Cabbage root fly burrow in to the roots of the sprout and the it slowly wilts and dies. If you pull up the plant then you will see maggots on the roots. You can buy little collars that go around the base of the cabbage which stops the fly laying her eggs on the roots.