Brussels sprouts are a part of the cabbage family and are very nutritious, and they’ve been around for many centuries, which leads some people to wonder if they’re a “naturally” occurring vegetable or a home-made one.
Brussels sprouts are a man-made veggie, and they’ve only been around since the 5th century. They were first cultivated in Brussels and Belgium in the 13th century but appeared even earlier in the 5th century in Northern Europe.
This article will explore the interesting history of brussels sprouts.
Brussels sprouts are a type of cabbage; more specifically, the cultivar known as Brassica oleracea. They look like very small cabbages and most are roughly .5 inch to 1.5 inches in diameter.
While they were first cultivated in Brussels, Belgium, in the 13th century, they have actually been around much longer. In the 5th century, the vegetable appeared in Northern Europe.
Once they started being cultivated in Brussels, their popularity spread quickly. This is also the reason they were given the name Brussels sprouts.
Written references to the Brussels sprout date back to 1587, and we know that Brussels sprouts spread from southern Netherlands to cooler parts of Northern Europe in the 16th century.
Check out this quick video about the history of brussels sprouts.
In North America, Brussels sprouts showed up in the 18th century when they were brought to Louisiana by French settlers. They started being planted in California in the 1920s, although it wasn’t until the 1940s that the crops started multiplying and becoming even more popular.
If you’re one of those people who dislike Brussels sprouts, you might want to give them another try.
In the 1990s, a Dutch scientist named Hans van Doorn identified what made the vegetable have a “bitter” taste. Since then companies have crossbred the Brussels sprouts to cut back on that bitterness.
Because of this, the veggie has enjoyed a huge increase in popularity in recent years. They did this by crossbreeding low-bitterness varieties with high-yield varieties, and it certainly did the trick.
Brussels sprouts grow best in temperatures of 59 to 64 degrees Fahrenheit, and the harvesting season is from September to March. If you grow Brussels sprouts at home, you can pick them a little later than March because it won’t hurt the veggies if you freeze them.
If you wait until after a frost to pick Brussels sprouts, they tend to be a little sweeter. Brussels sprouts, therefore, are a winter vegetable, and while most of them are green, some cultivars have a little purple mixed in because they were crossbred with a type of purple cabbage.
Today, the Netherlands grows more Brussels sprouts than any other place in Europe. They produce about 82,000 metric tons of the vegetables every year. The U.K.’s production of
Brussels sprouts is roughly the same, but they do not export most of their veggies. Germany is also a big producer of Brussels sprouts at around 10,000 tons per year, but Mexico is second when it comes to growing Brussels sprouts.
In the U.S., most Brussels sprouts are grown in California, totaling around 32,000 tons per year.
One of the interesting things about Brussels sprouts is the fact that about 80% of the ones produced every year are for the frozen food market.
Only around 20% of all Brussels sprouts grown are bought and eaten fresh. In the U.S., Brussels sprouts tend to be a little larger than average and can be nearly two inches in diameter.
Fresh Brussels sprouts can last from 2.5 to 3.5 weeks in the refrigerator, so they have long shelf lives to enjoy.
In the 1800s, Brussels sprouts began being cultivated in the U.S., specifically Louisiana. But it took until 1925 for the vegetable to be grown commercially, which started in the Louisiana delta.
In the early 1920s, some cultivation was occurring in California as well. By 1939, production of most Brussels sprouts in the U.S. shifted to the mid-coastal region of California, with some production becoming available in parts of Washington State and even Long Island. Most U.S. production today is still based in this region of California.
Natural Brussels sprouts do not exist. It took centuries for humans to perfect this vegetable because it took that long for it to look and taste like the veggie we call a Brussels sprout today.
While we cannot say for sure, most experts agree that there is no place on the planet where Brussels sprouts grow naturally. This means that if you want to enjoy this vegetable, you’ll have to visit a local supermarket or farmers’ market!
Brussels sprouts need cool weather to grow right, which is why if you’re going to grow them at home, you should live in USDA growing zones 3-9. Keep in mind that the taste of Brussels sprouts changes depending on the cultivar.
While some Brussels sprouts have a buttery flavor, others taste earthy like root veggies. Even their stalks can look different, with some having well spaced-out stalks and others having small, crowded ones.
Some of the best types of Brussels sprouts to grow at home include the following:
These Brussels sprouts have only been around since the early 1940s, but they have large, two-inch heads and a stalk that is only around 24 inches long. You can harvest them in 90-110 days.
Churchill sprouts can be harvested in only 90 days and produces tons of buds – more than 14 ounces of veggies per plant, which is phenomenal.
These 1.5-inch sprouts are a bright-green color and have yellow interiors. They have a delicious buttery flavor that all sprout-lovers will enjoy.
If you’re looking for Brussels sprouts with a super-high tolerance to frost, this is it. They are extremely tasty and have a nice nutty flavor.
If you love Brussels sprouts, you have a lot of people to thank because these vegetables are definitely a human invention. Brussels sprouts have been around since the 13th century, although people were experimenting with them in the 5th century. They are both tasty and nutritious.
I am an accredited practicing dietitian, experienced gardener and a dedicated cook. I love writing and sharing my experience so you can learn from my successes and mistakes.