Brussels sprouts greens? Sorry, not this year.

Last week one of our regular customers asked when we were going to have Brussels sprouts greens available. I felt kind of good about that.

So much great food is wasted in our culture just because people don’t know it’s food. Brussels sprouts greens are a perfect example. They’re delicious, but few people even know they’re edible. In our culture we just eat the sprouts and throw away the rest of the plant. In our weekly newsletter last fall we made the greens available and encouraged people to try them. The customer who contacted us about them last week tried them on our recommendation and they’re now her favorite leafy green. She’s the second of our customers who tried them on our advice and now prefers them over all other greens.

Unfortunately we had to tell her we won’t have any Brussels sprouts greens this year.

While we were away on vacation deer ate 100% of our Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and collards. Our fall crops were almost entirely wiped out.

It’s mostly my fault. For the first time in years we had zero deer pressure on our summer gardens. Maybe I got a little overconfident. It seemed we weren’t going to have any trouble this year. I surely didn’t expect that we’d go from zero pressure to full-out assault in the two weeks we were away. So while we had our deer fences up, we hadn’t double-fenced. That was really stupid of me. And I didn’t ask our farm sitters to put out any deer repellent. I’m sure they weren’t even aware that security had been breached. It’s possible that the deer would’ve wiped us out even if I had been here though. It’s impossible to keep them out if they’re determined to get in, absent a very high permanent fence.

Nevertheless, we’re still harvesting good food. Our tatsoi, arugula, Chinese cabbage and spinach is in raised beds surrounded by chicken wire and is deer-safe, so far. They ate the tops off the beets, but we were able to harvest the roots. They mostly left the turnips alone, so we have plenty of them. And the radishes, kale, spinach, turnips and lettuce that we planted in the hoop house look great.

Deer have been the biggest problem we’ve faced on this farm, by far. As much as I like tending 2 acres in gardens scattered around the farm, that’s just not going to work for us. This year’s experience is one of the reasons (and there are plenty others) that we’re going to retreat to a smaller more-defensible position. I’m working on adding a few more raised beds, and next year we’re going to concentrate our gardens into a smaller area, which¬†we can more easily protect.

We learn from our mistakes. Because we make a lot of mistakes, we’re learning a lot.

So no Brussels sprouts greens this season. But next year…

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