Diablo…..Falstaff…..Kryptus…Churchill. The names might fit a racehorse, or on the transom of a yacht. But bearers of these names grow in the ground. And in New Hampshire, October is when Brussels Sprouts can achieve their apotheosis.
"They are a good fall treat and a good keeper."
Larry Pletcher and I are standing by this season’s last row of Brussels Sprouts at the vegetable ranch, his Organic farm in Warner. Pletcher has been growing Brussels sprouts since 1988. This year he says he topped his crop, a technique where you lop the last few inches off the sprout’s shank-like main stalk and pick off lower leaves. The effect makes the Brussels sprout plant look almost tropical, and a bit like a very small palm tree.
"This is a good example, the three foot plant would have had leaves all the way down….and the sprout itself grows at the junction of the leaf and the stem, as you take these off the theory is that it will help the sprouts the size up a little more, and we have cows, and the cows love this."
But not everyone loves feels that way….
Brussels sprouts are kind of polarizing.
Becky Sideman is a UNH Cooperative Extension professor.
"And when I tell people I’m doing this thing on Brussels sprouts, the response is either they are my favorite why don’t more people grow Brussels sprouts, or ewww..."
Right now, Sideman is growing a variety of Brussels sprouts side by side to see which types are best suited for New Hampshire’s climate. Sideman says in general, sprouts have it easiest when the climate is moderate, with cool nights and few dramatic spikes in temperature. Most of the U.S.’s crop is grown in central California, which fits that bill. But, she says, sprouts may be at their most tasty when they have to endure a night frosts.
"So people tend to think Brussels sprouts can be bitter, which I don't think, but they do definitely become sweeter after they’ve had some cold weather."
Sideman’s preferred method of cooking them, roasted. Farmer Larry Pletcher, meanwhile says he’s partial to cooking them on top of the stove with mushrooms.
However you like them, get the local ones while you can, because Brussel Sprout season in New Hampshire is almost over.