The Brussels Sprout is a cultivar in the Gemmifera group of cabbages (Brassica oleracea), and is grown for its edible green sprouts (or “buds”) that are typically 1 to 1½ inches in diameter and look like miniature cabbages. The sprouts of this cool-season vegetable contain good amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid and dietary fiber.
Most varieties of Brussels Sprouts are ready to harvest 80 to 150 days after planting. The edible sprouts grow like buds in spiral patterns along the sides of long, thick stalks, and they mature from the lower part of the stalk to the upper part. Stalks reach a height of 2 to 4 feet, and each stalk can produce from 2 to 3 lbs. of sprouts. In the home garden, the timing of the harvest is important because sprouts are sweetest after a good, stiff frost.
To prepare Brussels Sprouts for cooking begins with cutting the buds off the stalk. Any surplus stem is cut away from each bud, and any loose surface leaves are peeled and discarded. Once cut and cleaned, the buds are typically cooked by boiling, steaming, stir-frying or roasting. To ensure cooking evenly throughout, buds of a similar size are usually chosen. Overcooking will render the buds gray and too soft, and they then develop a pungent flavor and odor that most people dislike.