Brussels sprout (Brassica oleracea Gemmifera group)
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The Brussels (or brussels or brussel) sprout (Brassica oleracea Gemmifera Group) is a cultivar group of Wild Cabbage cultivated for its small (typically 2.5 - 4cm, 1 - 1.5 inches diameter) leafy green heads, which resemble miniature cabbages. The name stems from the original place of cultivation, not because of the vegetable’s popularity in Brussels.
Forerunners to modern Brussels sprouts were likely cultivated in Ancient Rome, and possibly as early as the 1200s in what is now Belgium. The first written reference dates to 1587. During the sixteenth century they enjoyed a popularity in the southern Netherlands that eventually spread throughout the cooler parts of Northern Europe.
Brussels sprouts grow in temperature ranges of 7 to 24°C (45 to 75°F), with highest yields at 15 to 18°C (60 to 65°F). Plants grow from seeds in seed beds or greenhouses, and are transplanted to growing fields.. Fields are ready for harvest 90-180 days after planting. The edible sprouts grow like buds in a spiral array on the side of long thick stalks of approximately 2-4 feet in height, maturing over several weeks from the lower to the upper part of the stalk. Sprouts may be picked by hand into baskets, in which case several harvests are made of 5-15 sprouts at a time, by cutting the entire stalk at once for processing, or by mechanical harvester, depending on variety. Each stalk can produce 1.1 to 1.4 kg (2 1/2 to 3 pounds), although the commercial yield is approximately 0.9kg (2 pounds) per stalk..
Brussels sprouts are among the same family that includes cabbage, collard greens, broccoli, kale, and kohlrabi. They contain good amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid and dietary fibre. Moreover, they are believed to protect against colon cancer, due to their containing sinigrin. Brussels sprouts are cruciferous.
Production of Brussels sprouts in the United States began around 1800, when French settlers brought them to Louisiana. The first plantings in California’s Central Coast began in the 1920s, with significant production beginning in the 1940s. Currently there are several thousand acres planted in coastal areas of San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and Monterey Counties of California, which offer an ideal combination of coastal fog and cool temperatures year-round. The harvest season lasts from June through January. They are also grown in Baja California, where the harvest season is from December through June.