Harvesting Your Brussels Sprouts Crops
You can encourage the formation and early maturity of sprouts by removing the top 2.5 cm (1”) of growing tip. Do this in late summer or early autumn for maincrop varieties and late autumn for late croppers. This practice, however, tends to decrease the yield. As the crop reaches maturity—28-36 weeks after sowing depending on variety—the lower leaves of the plant will start to yellow.
Cut or pull them off—they should come off easily if pulled downward.
Sprouts mature from the bottom of the stem upwards, and should be picked in that order. If you leave sprouts on the bottom of the stem, production of new sprouts further up will be diminished, and the lower sprouts will quickly become inedible and subject to infection or infestation by pests.
Begin picking the lower sprouts when they are about 2.5 cm (1”) in diameter, as large sprouts are not nearly as tasty as small ones. Split each sprout off the stem with a sharp, downward tug; if they do not come off easily, use a sharp knife rather than damage the stem by pulling. Spread the harvesting evenly over all the plants; never strip one plant of all sprouts, unless it is to be a once-only harvest, perhaps for freezing.
Once the sprouts towards the top of the stem are well developed, you can cut off the top leafy growth and cook it like. After the top is cut, the remaining sprouts will mature quite quickly. Otherwise, the top growth can be left on until all the sprouts have been harvested, and will then provide some useful ‘greens’ in mid-spring. Some gardeners, who want all their sprouts early and small for freezing, cut off the top several weeks before the crop is ready for picking. Most of the sprouts will then mature at the same time.
Over winter, to produce early spring greens. This is generally a bad idea because the stumps provide a convenient overwintering place for serious brassica pests, such as whitefly and aphids. Having overwintered on the stumps, they then come to life in spring and re-infest newly planted brassica crops.
After harvesting the sprouts and the leafy tops, the best policy is to dig the stumps completely out of the ground. Chop off and burn the root, to avoid the risk of club root. This is why it is much better to dig rather than pull up the stumps. If you pull the stumps out, the root may break off below ground level and remain in theto harbour .
The woody stem will rot in time, but should be chopped up with a spade to aid decay. It can be dug into the soil but is probably best incorporated in theheap.
A Brussels sprout crop is a heavy drain on soil, which will benefit from a generous manuring before being used again.
Care after harvesting
Almost every part of the Brussels sprout plant is used. The sprouts and crown are both eaten, leaving only the stout, woody stem. Some gardeners leave a few stumps of Brussels sprouts in the ground