Weatherford Democrat


December 14, 2007

Gardening is the purest of human pleasures

Jo Anne Boudreau, Democrat Columnist

Of all the vegetables growing in the winter garden, Brussels sprouts looks the strongest. This unusual vegetable covered with 20 to 40 baby cabbages growing close together along a tall, single stalk is topped with cabbagelike leaves. Brussels sprouts were first found growing around Brussels, Belgium during the Middle Ages, long before Brussels or Belgium actually existed. Germans call it “rose cabbage.” Harvesting and bringing these “baby cabbages” inside to cook is far superior in taste to the over-strong flavor of produce market varieties. You can begin harvesting the sprouts when they are the size of marbles and still tightly closed. Begin at the bottom of the stalk and twist of cut off the lowest ones. Brussels sprouts are even tastier if they are nipped by cold weather or frost before harvesting much like collard greens, kale and parsley.

This cancer-fighting member of the cabbage family should be planted in the cool weather garden more often. Start by seed until the end of October and transplant in compost-rich soil, allowing plenty of growing space, at least one to two feet apart. The best seed of this plant comes from either Denmark or Russia. Commercial growers plant Brussels sprouts every two or three weeks to ensure a continuous harvest. Apply a thick layer of mulch, four to six inches, around each plant. Brussels sprouts are heavy feeders that require lots of nitrogen. Sprinkle handfuls of nitrogen rich cottonseed meal over the mulch around the plants at least once a month.

Plant chamomile, pennyroyal, sage, thyme, rosemary, marigolds, petunias, and all other members of the cabbage family with Brussels sprouts to enhance their growth and protect against damaging insects, snails and slugs. Snails and slugs can be trapped under a board or old piece of carpet and disposed of in a bucket of soapy water. Or place shallow dishes of beer around the cabbage patch to attract and drown these slimy critters. Check the leaves for caterpillar damage and handpick and dispose of any you find. Hose off aphids with a stream of water.

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