“We kids feared many things in those days – werewolves, dentists, North Koreans, Sunday School – but they all paled in comparison with Brussels sprouts.”
—Dave Barry, Miami Herald Columnist
I adore Dave Barry, but when it comes to the brussels sprout, he and I part ways. There is no vegetable as beloved around our farm.
While our youngest daughter won’t eat much that isn’t pasta or apples, she does have a deep and abiding love for brussels sprouts, especially when cooked with lemon, bacon, and butter.
This year’s sprouts were planted in the ultimately unsuccessful back garden. When we realized that the soil back there wasn’t acidic enough and that was why the squash and sprouts weren’t taking off, we transplanted as many as we could fit into the front garden. Within days, the squash was visibly healthier and starting to take off. Within a couple of weeks, the sprouts seemed like they might just make it as well.
As the summer turned into early fall, we were overwhelmed with squash. Our plants were producing more than we could eat. We brought a ton of it down to the restaurant and processed a further ton to freeze for winter. The brussels, however, still showed no sign of sprouting.
Our neighbor, Lee, came by and noted that our brussels sprouts plants looked just like his brussels sprouts plants. We both noted that the guy growing sprouts by the road in town had plants that looked like both of ours. Where were the sprouts?!
And then, one day, the sprouts started to form.
They were small at first, but we became hopeful. As the weeks went by, we noticed to our immense shock and profound disappointment, they STAYED SMALL. And, since they need at least six hours of sunlight to do their thing; they’ve grown all they’re gonna grow this season.
The only thing I can think to attribute this to is the low acidity of the original soil (pre-transplant). Brussels sprouts love well-drained soil with good acidity and ours didn’t get that until too late, it would seem. Last year’s sprouts were perfect and prolific, so I have to assume it was the venue change that did them in. I’d have to do a soil test on Lee’s garden, as well as the guy in town to be sure, but for now, I’ll operate on my assumptions.
So, what do we do now?
Well, now we eat the plants.
Once we had grieved and mourned and flailed about wildly and torn our clothes and ultimately come around to acceptance, we went out to the garden with the shears and a basket and cut all the leaves from all the stalks.
As it turns out, the leaves are actually quite tasty. Sadly, they don’t taste like brussels sprouts. They taste more like other dark, leafy greens (think kale or collard greens, but with a more delicate flavor).
We discovered that it is best to prep the leaves for eating by first removing the thick stem in the middle of the leaf. Cutting the leaves into strips, or smaller pieces is nice as well, because they are similar to collards in texture and smaller pieces are more pleasant to eat for both plants. After simply sauteeing the first batch, we agreed that they would be even better if they were blanched first, as this would soften the leaves even further.
Now, we have bags of blanched brussels sprouts leaves in the freezer awaiting cooking over the winter. The plants are no longer out in the garden, taunting us with their sproutlessness. We have prevailed, once again, and will go on to eat another day.