Brussels sprouts may look like small cabbages when you see them on your dinner plate, but they sure don’t look anything like a cabbage when growing in the garden. Brussels sprouts like broccoli, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower are members of the brassica family of vegetables.
All brassica look very similar when first set out in the garden.
But each different brassica vegetable changes within a month of being planted and begins to take on its own particular growing habit and appearance.
Brussels sprouts like all brassica vegetables prefers cool weather and lots of moisture for growing. But Brussels sprouts unlike cabbage or cauliflower grows upward and tall.The sprouts are produced beneath the leaves on the stem of the plant.
Brussels sprouts grow tallest and bear heavy when the lower leaves are slowly removed throughout the summer. Removing the lower leaves allows the sunlight to reach the thick stem, which encourages large, heavy sprouts.
Brussels sprouts can withstand frost. In fact they taste better after a few frosts and even after a couple of snowfalls. Because they are so cold hardly, they are an important home garden vegetable for people who desire fresh vegetables during the early winter months.
Fresh picked Brussels sprouts contain respectable amounts of vitamin A,vitamin C and folic acid.
Brussels sprouts are usually stored 2 ways. The most common modern method is by freezing. The other older method is in a cool root cellar. Frozen Brussels sprouts will last about 12 months in a home freezer at 0°F.
For root cellar storage, the entire plant is simply pulled up from the ground – roots and all. Knock any big hunks of clinging dirt off the roots and hang them upside down as single plants in a cool root cellar. If harvested in early December and stored under good conditions in a root cellar, sprouts will last sometimes until the middle to end of February.
In my house I’m the only one who will eat them. So I freeze most of the harvest into single serving size packages for later use. Brussels sprouts must be cleaned and blanched before they can be frozen. They are first soaked in a salt or vinegar solution to drive out any bugs and then they need to be trimmed.
I use 3 tablespoons of salt or vinegar to 1 gallon of water. I allow the sprouts to soak for about 30 minutes or so then rinse well in cool water.
Sprouts are trimmed by removing any old or yellow leaves and cutting the base of the sprout flush with the head. Like most vegetables that are to be frozen for storage are blanched in boiling water before freezing.
Blanching brightens and preserves the color of frozen vegetables, but more importantly, blanching stops the growth of yeast, molds, bacteria and other microorganisms that will degrade frozen food over time.
Without blanching frozen vegetables have a freezer life of about 2 months. With blanching freezer life for most vegetables is extended to 12 – 14 months if vacuum sealed.
The sprouts are blanched in boiling water for 3 – 5 minutes depending upon how large they are. Three minutes for small heads and five minutes for large heads is just about right.
After blanching the sprouts they are rapidly cooled by being placed in a cold water bath to which ice has been added.
To prevent them from clumping together when they are packaged, I placed them on a cookie sheet in the freezer for about an hour before they are packaged.
By semi-freezing them first, the sprouts stay separate and loose in the container or freezer bag, and that makes them much easier to handle if only a couple are needed from the freezer.