Brassica oleracea Gemmifera Group

From The Plant Encyclopedia

Brussel Sprouts

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Brussel sprouts harvested

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Brassica oleracea Gemmifera Group

Species Brassica oleracea

Aden Earth Zone

3 - 15


  • Cultivation: Easy-To-Grow, For-Gardeners
  • Light: Sun
  • Soil: Rich
  • pH: 7
  • Moisture: Medium


  • Form: Herbaceous
  • Habit: Annual
  • Flower: Medium, White
  • Fruit/Seed: Small
  • Foliage: Leaves, Green
  • Uses: Edible, Industrial


The Brussels sprout is a Cultivar of wild Cabbage grown for its edible buds. The Leafy green vegetables are typically in diameter and look like miniature cabbages. The sprout is Brassica oleracea, in the "gemmifera" group of the family Brassicaceae. Although named after the city in Belgium, few historians believe the plant originated there.


Forerunners to modern Brussels sprouts were likely cultivated in Ancient Rome. Brussels sprouts as we now know them were grown possibly as early as the 13th century in what is now Belgium.The first written reference dates to 1587.During the 16th century, they enjoyed a popularity in the southern Netherlands that eventually spread throughout the cooler parts of Northern Europe.

Brussels sprouts grow in heat ranges of 7–24 °C (45–75 °F), with highest yields at 15–18 °C (59–64 °F). Fields are ready for harvest 90 to 180 days after planting. The edible sprouts grow like buds in a spiral along the side of long thick stalks of approximately  in height, maturing over several weeks from the lower to the upper part of the stalk. Sprouts may be picked by hand into baskets, in which case several harvests are made of 5 to 15 sprouts at a time, by cutting the entire stalk at once for processing, or by mechanical harvester, depending on variety.Each stalk can produce , although the commercial yield is approximately  per stalk.

Brussels sprouts are a Cultivar of the same Species that includes Cabbage, Collard greens, Broccoli, Kale, and Kohlrabi; they are cruciferous. They contain good amounts of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Folic acid and dietary fibre. Moreover, they are believed to protect against colon cancer, because they contain Sinigrin.Bowden, Jonny. [The 150 healthiest foods on earth], Fair Winds, p. 27, 2007. Although they contain compounds such as Goitrin that can act as Goitrogens and interfere with Thyroid hormone production, realistic amounts in the diet do not seem to have any effect on the function of the Thyroid gland in humans.

In Continental Europe the largest producers are the Netherlands, at 82,000 metric tons, and Germany, at 10,000 tons. The United Kingdom has production comparable to that of the Netherlands, but it is not generally exported.

North America
Production of Brussels sprouts in the United States began in the 18th century, when French settlers brought them to Louisiana. Thomas Jefferson grew them at Monticello. The first plantings in California's Central Coast began in the 1920s, with significant production beginning in the 1940s. Currently there are several thousand acres planted in coastal areas of San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and Monterey Counties of California, which offer an ideal combination of coastal fog and cool temperatures year-round. The harvest season lasts from June through January.They are also grown in Baja California, Mexico, where the harvest season is from December through June.

Most of the United States production is in California, with a smaller percentage of the crop grown in Skagit Valley, Washington, where cool springs, mild summers and rich soil abounds and to a lesser degree on Long Island, New York.Total United States production is approximately 32,000 tons, with a value of $27 million. Ontario, Canada produces approximately 1,000 tons per year

Nutritional and medicinal value

Brussels sprouts, as with Broccoli and other Brassicas, contains Sulforaphane, a chemical believed to have potent anti-cancer properties. Although boiling reduces the level of the anti-cancer compounds, Steaming, microwaving, and Stir frying does not result in significant loss.

Brussels sprouts and other Brassicas are also a source of Indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells.