Topping Brussels sprouts
Last year, we
didn't top our Brussels sprouts because it was our first year
growing and we wanted to try the simplest method. But
at Trapper Creek reminded me of the possibility, and even
though it's really much later than you should top the plants, I
decided to try lopping the tips off a few.
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The theory behind topping Brussels sprouts is
that if you cut off the growing tip, the plant stops elongating
(and making new Brussels sprouts) and puts that energy into
plumping up the sprouts that have already started. This is a
bit like the way you might top tomatoes at a certain point so they
ripen fruits faster rather than setting lots of little tomatoes
that won't have time to fully form before the frost.
In the case of
Brussels sprouts, all of the sprouts will keep enlarging until
extremely cold weather sets in, and it's true that the plants will
also make sprouts in the early spring if they over-winter.
However, we found last year that the over-wintered sprouts were
pretty damaged and only moderately worth eating, while the fall
and early winter sprouts were delectable. So even though
topping Brussels sprouts reduces yields by about 30%, I figured it
was worth a try if the 70% we get are much higher quality.
I wasn't entirely
sure it was worth topping so late, though, so I only hit plants
sporadically. The tops came into the kitchen where I sauteed
them in a bit of oil with salt and pepper and relished the first
taste of Brussels sprouts in months. A forecast of
delicacies to come!