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From plot to pot: Sprouts

PUBLISHED: 12:13 23 November 2010 | UPDATED: 18:12 20 February 2013

From plot to pot: Sprouts

From plot to pot: Sprouts

Belinda Grey offers advice on growing and cooking the vegetable of the season

Belinda Grey offers advice on growing and cooking the vegetable of the season

Traditionally, we all cook Brussels sprouts for the family dining highlight of the year, but how often are these miniature cabbages that roll between the chipolatas and the bread sauce, found on our plate on any other day? Highly nutritious, easy to grow and great for succession sowing, they are a really valuable vegetable for the kitchen garden.
On the morning of December 25, I eagerly anticipate the ritual picking of these shiny, green globes from their towering stalks and feel a sense of pride that I timed their sowing of seed in early September to perfection. Varieties such as Titus, Montgomery, Clodius and Brigitte are suitable to grow for a late December pick and with selection from the seed catalogues of other named types, sprouts can be grown and picked for up to six months of the year. Nipping out the central stem four weeks before harvest curtails growth, allowing all the sprouts to ripen at once. Like all brassicas they prefer an alkaline, fertile soil, cabbage collars around young stems and protection under 7mm netting to prevent the dreaded cabbage white butterfly from laying its eggs.
Perking up a bowl of sprouts presents with many options. Cutting them in half and sauting with olive oil and garlic and a smattering of chopped, hazelnuts, pecans or chestnuts makes for a wintery theme. Blanching them quickly then tossing in goose fat with pancetta adds a tasty twist. Crushed juniper berries, the zest of a lemon or orange with toasted breadcrumbs adds a lift or stir-frying halved sprouts in a little sesame oil, soy sauce with a scattering of sesame seeds brings Oriental flavour.
Love them or hate them the Christmas day meal feels incomplete without them, so make space for them in your kitchen garden and ensure that somewhere in Santas sack you receive your seed, ready for sowing next year.

Belinda Gray runs a vegetable growing gardening school near Woodbridge.

Course gift vouchers available for Christmas, contact 01394 384712


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