The Brussels sprout (Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera) is a cool-season cole crop that is related to broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. The sprouts are buds or small heads that are produced in the leaf axils (the space between the base of the leaf and the stem above it). Sprouts mature starting at the base of the stem and working upward. In Kentucky, Brussels sprouts do best as a fall crop since sprouts maturing in hot weather are less firm and prone to bitterness.
Commercial production of Brussels sprouts in the United States is concentrated in California, with some East Coast production on Long Island, New York. Across the entire U.S., 2,541 farms reported harvesting 9,445 acres of Brussels sprouts in 2017, with 9,115 acres being harvested for fresh market sales. The Census of Agriculture reported 24 Kentucky farms harvested Brussels sprouts for the 2017 growing season. Fall and overwinter production occurs on farms across the state. In Kentucky, fall crops appear to have the most potential for fresh market sales. Direct marketers should work to create niche markets, like restaurant or farmers market sales, for freshly harvested Brussels sprouts.
Brussels sprouts are a slow-growing cool-weather vegetable, growing best when daytime temperatures are between 65 and 80 degrees F; they even do well in lightly frosty weather. For an early spring crop, start the seed about six weeks before the plants are to be transplanted, or about mid-February for transplanting around April 1 in most areas of Kentucky, allowing for harvest in mid-June. For a fall crop, plant seed between early and mid-June and set transplants in the field between July and August 1. Fall planting harvest might extend through Thanksgiving and even into December in mild years. Growers should be careful when selecting varieties as some may not produce firm harvestable sprouts under our growing conditions.