Brussels Sprouts Recipes

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How to Grow Brussels Sprouts

One of the most essential pieces of information in the optimum production of Brussels Sprouts is knowledge of their unique climate requirements:  being initially developed in the Low Countries of Holland and Belgium, they appreciate long, cool growing seasons.  Even though these countries are as far north as Hudson’s Bay, their winters are much warmer than similar latitudes across much of North America because of proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.  These areas also don’t get very warm in the summer for the same reason.  As a result, the highly frost-tolerant Brussels Sprouts can be grown year-round in their place of origin, where both the summers and winters are neither too hot nor too cold. 

If you live in the cool costal areas of the Pacific Northwest, you are very lucky indeed, as your climate in broad brushstrokes is the same as Brussels Sprouts’ home.  In this area, all you need to do is plant seeds when you set out the rest of your garden, with year-round cultivation being an option.  But, if you live anywhere else, you’ll have to do things differently.  Because they tolerate cold spells better than heat waves, if you live in a mild-winter areas that do not drop much below 20o F., you’ll want to plant Brussels Sprouts seeds once the heat of summer is well past, and grow them as a winter crop.  If you live in colder areas, you’ll want to set out husky transplants into the garden when there is approximately 100 days remaining before the first frost. 

If you’re direct sowing seeds, plant about ½ inch deep, and thin to about 2 feet spacing when they are a half-foot tall.  Don’t forget that you can eat the thinned plants like you would kale.  If you’re setting out transplants, space them 2 feet apart and set in deeply so that the bottom leaves are just above the soil surface; firm the soil and water well.  Mulch the growing plants to help retain soil moisture and keep the ground from getting too hot.  Hand pull weeds, rather than hoe cultivating, to protect their shallow roots.  Fertilize them lightly twice a month.  Stake the plants to keep them from being blown over in high winds.  As the bottom-most leaves begin to yellow, pinch them off.  This encourages the plant to grow tall, giving you more sprouts per stalk. 

Harvest after the sprouts are 1-2” in diameter and have been exposed to a few frosts, as this will help make them sweet.  You can prolong harvest by pinching off the first ripe sprouts near the plant bottom first, and then keep harvesting them up the stalk.  If the sprouts are not maturing quickly enough and hard winter freezes are on their way, you can remove the plant top, which will force sprout development over a few weeks long period.  If a plant-killing freeze of less than 20o F. is on its way, you can uproot stalks with developed sprouts, remove the leaves, and hang in a cool, sheltered place like an attached garage, basement, or root cellar.

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Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts and Maple Butter


Brussels sprouts and chestnuts make for a classic combination, with the sweet starchiness of the chestnuts playing off and enhancing the slightly bitter cabbage flavor of the sprouts.  There are countless versions of this combination, but perhaps our favorite is one presented by Annie Somerville in her 1993 Fields of Greens in which maple butter is also added.  This makes for one of the most extravagant and delicious side dishes you’ll ever eat. 

We’ve adapted this recipe by increasing the amount of chestnuts by 4-fold.  We do this not only because we love chestnuts, but also because we now have access to the highest quality, freshly harvested North American chestnuts via Chestnut Charlie’s of Lawrence, Kansas.  Charlie NovoGradac and Deborah Milks started planting chestnut trees on an old farm north of Lawrence in 1995 in an attempt to create an economically viable and ecologically sound business based on permiculture.  You can order their chestnuts via the internet and have them delivered to your door, and they are by far and away the best quality that we’ve ever encountered.  Do give them a try!

24 chestnuts
¼ cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1½ pounds brussels sprouts
1 cup red onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup reduced stock
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

With a sharp paring knife score the chestnuts. Bake in a 400º F. oven for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and remove the shell and brown skin from the chestnuts. Coarsely chop for a little over 1 cup of total volume.

Cream butter and maple syrup to make a loose paste.

Trim away brussels sprouts bases, discarding any discolored outer leaves and cutting each in half. Blanch the prepared sprouts in boiling water until tender, about 6 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, and drain again.

Heat olive oil in a pan and sauté onion slices over medium-high heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Add blanched brussels sprouts, prepared chestnuts and reduced stock. Continue cooking until the stock has almost completely evaporated and has become thick. Remove pan from heat and let cool for about 10 minutes until the sprouts are just a little more than body temperature. Toss with the maple butter and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Serve immediately as this dish tastes much better when served warm.


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Brussels Sprout Leaves with Noodles


Because it is made from the separated leaves of brussels sprouts heads, this recipe – adapted from one presented in the 2009 Martha Stewart’s Dinners at Home (ISBN 978-0307396457) – is a godsend for those whose garden only produces brussels sprouts with loose heads.  Be sure to find a wide, rustic egg noodle like pappardelle or make your own.  Small dimension semolina noodles just are not as good with this simple but addictive combination.  If you have a lemon zester you can substitute 1 tablespoon of grated zest for the 1 teaspoon lemon extract. 

1 pound brussels sprouts
8 ounces wide egg noodles
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/3 cup water
¼ cup unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
2 tablespoons capers, drained
¼ cup flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon lemon extract
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cut brussles sprouts in half, remove core, and separate the leaves.

Boil noodles in salted water until al dente. Drain, rinse with cold water, and toss with a little olive oil to keep them from sticking.

Heat remaining olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Sauté garlic for 1 minute, then add brussels sprouts leaves. Toss in oil then add water. Increase heat to medium-high and simmer until the leaves are tender, approximately 5 minutes. Add cooked noodles and butter and toss until the butter melts and the noodles are warmed through. Mix in the remaining ingredients. Serve warm.


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Savory Sprouts


This is one of those recipes that you find scribbled down on a torn piece of paper and stuck without attribution into your recipe box.  Jeff's only guess as to its source is that it came from a high school friend’s family.  But who knows?  What makes this side dish so different is that it does not try to counteract the slight bitterness of the sprouts by adding in sugar or other sweet ingredients.  Rather it goes the other direction and adds in savory flavors like mustard seed.  The use of blood oranges is not only done for color, but also flavor as they are less sweet than typical oranges, and thus play together perfectly with the other ingredients in this dish.  

2 tablespoons olive oil 
2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds
1 medium onion, cut into small dice
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
1 lb brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
¼ cup reduced stock
2 blood oranges, peeled, broken into segments
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a medium-sized pan.  When hot, add in mustard seeds, cover pan, and let the seeds pop.  When the popping subsides, reduce the heat to medium and add in diced onion.  Sauté for 5-10 minutes until soft and translucent.  Add in the garlic and sauté an additional 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add in the halved brussels sprouts and stock.   Bring stock to a simmer, cover pan, and cook until the sprouts tender and the stock has almost boiled away, at least 5 minutes.  When ready, remove from heat, season with salt and pepper, and toss in the halved blood orange segments.  Serve warm.

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