Diary of a Rocket Gardener: When to harvest sprouts

Look at my incredible sprouts!! I’m very excited to have grown these for the first time this year, and they’ve done so well in spite of slugs and caterpillars galore back in the summer. I planted them in July and popped a net over them to keep them protected from pigeons, and they’ve just thrived. But, I didn’t expect to be able to harvest them so soon although it has been very mild here. I was thinking they’d be ready for harvesting closer to Christmas, and since I promised my family I’d supply homegrown sprouts this year I am keen to keep them going if I can.

So I’ve been researching and this is what I have found out about growing and harvesting sprouts:

  1. Sprouts are more flavoursome if harvested after a few frosts.
  2. It’s best to pick individual sprouts from the bottom of the plant first as these are more mature. The others can be left on the plant and harvested as and when they mature.
  3. If you prefer, you can pull up a whole plant and stand it in water for a few days or hang it in a cool place for a few weeks. (Thanks to Alan Buckingham and his book Allotment month-by-month for that tip)
  4. The variety that I’ve been growing (from Rocket Gardens) is called ‘Maximus’ and tends to crop from September through to December.
  5. When leaves turn yellow you should remove them.
  6. If you strip off all the leaves you can accelerate your harvest. (I won’t be doing this as I want to slow mine down!)
  7. If your Christmas sprouts are ready to harvest a few weeks before Christmas Day it is best to harvest the whole stalk as the sprouts will keep longer that way.
  8. Once the lower sprouts reach maturity you can expect to harvest 5-10 sprouts per plant for 4-6 weeks assuming you are harvesting individual sprouts weather than the whole plant.
  9. Once an individual sprout is mature, it won’t open out for a week or so, so you can afford to wait a few days before harvesting it.
  10. Sprouts keep well unwashed in the fridge for a few weeks (don’t wash them until you’re ready to eat them.)