Brussels Sprout Igor
Love 'em or hate 'em, there's something special about serving up your own sprouts on Christmas day to your mates or family.
Sprouts aren't a good idea if you're short of space or time, but if you're prepared to put in the effort, Igor is one of the most prolific croppers we've found.
Time from seed to plate: 32 weeks
Sow brussels sprout seeds early in the year - ideally in a March or April. Gutters filled with compost are a very convenient way of sowing, but a seed bed also works well. Create a groove about half an inch deep in gutter/seed bed and sow the seeds leaving 1-2 inches between each one. Cover with compost/soil, firm and water gently. When seedlings emerge thin them to leave 3 inches between each plant.
Sowing method: Gutters
Move the seedlings to their final growing positions about a month after sowing. Gently dig up seed bed sown plants or separate out gutter sown plants with a trowel and plant individually in your plot leaving 2ft plants in both directions. Sprouts are ideally suited to bigger plots where you can create long straight rows of plants.
Firm the soil around them well, because they tend to have shallow roots and can get blown over.
Use some organic slug killer to deter slugs/snails, and remove any caterpillars when you see them. Pigeons can be a problem in the spring so cover with netting if your plants come under attack.
Your plants will grow to about 3ft high, so if you're in an exposed spot support them with a cane and draw more soil up over the roots.
Start harvesting your sprouts in October/November when they reach the size of walnut. Begin picking at the base of the stem, gradually working your way upwards as more sprouts are produced over the coming months. Pick by prizing them off the stem with your thumb. Chuck away any open or 'blown' sprouts and pull off any yellowing leaves.
Once all the sprouts have been harvested, cut off the green leafy tops. They make wonderfully tasty greens - just cook like cabbage.