A member of the cabbage family, Brussels sprouts are a cool weather crop. Major commercial production of Brussels sprouts occurs predominantly in California and New York, though home gardeners in most locations can plant them.
Brussels sprouts themselves should be familiar to most gardeners. They resemble miniature cabbages and generally grow up to 1 inch in diameter, though smaller Brussels sprouts also exist. A member of the Brassica family, Brussels sprouts are related to broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. What gardeners may not know if they've never grown this vegetable before is that Brussels sprouts grow off a main stalk.
Brussels sprouts, both the stalk and the sprouts themselves, are light green in color and may have hues of yellow or white. Red varieties, like Rubine, do exist but are generally poorer producers than the green varieties. If the Brussels sprouts do grow yellow leaves, it's a sign that they're old and have been on the stalk for a long time.
Brussels sprouts are cold-weather plants and are typically planted in the spring and the fall. Gardeners remove the spring crop when summer brings hot weather to their area. Late summer and early fall-planted Brussels sprouts have a sweeter taste than spring ones since the cold weather beneficially affects the flavor.
Brussels sprouts can grow 2 to 3 feet in height, according to the Arizona Master Gardener Manual. North Carolina State University notes that a single plant can produce 2 1/2 to 3 lbs. of sprouts.
The University of Illinois recommends many different varieties for home gardeners. Royal Marvel and Bubbles are disease-resistant; Jade Cross resists yellowing; and Valiant produces sprouts of a uniform size.
All Brussels sprouts benefit from cool weather. According to the University of Illinois, sprouts take 82 to 105 days to mature. The longest-maturing of their listed varieties is Rubine, the red Brussels sprout.
Native to Europe, the Brussels sprouts most likely got their name from Brussels, Belgium. The modern Brussels sprout received its name because it was grown in mass quantity in Brussels beginning in 1587, according to Brussels-Sprouts.com. Cultivated in Italy in Roman times and reportedly in 1200 in Belgium, Brussels sprouts reached the United States in the 1800s.