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, whichΒ 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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21 comments on “Brussels sprouts greens? Sorry, not this year.

  1. NebraskaDave says:

    Bill, sorry to hear about the deer devastation while you were on vacation. if those rascals get one little chance, they will take it. Defenses to keep wildlife out is way more difficult than fences to keep animals in. As you well know my garden gets pressure mostly from raccoons but deer is a problem as well. My strawberries that were totally eaten by deer two years ago, recovered wonderfully well this year. That’s because of the wooden fence that’s six foot high. Not that they couldn’t jump the fence but the rumor that I heard about deer not jumping a fence that they can’t see what’s on the other side must be true. Electric fences are a wonderful thing.

    High tunnels are marvelous to not only have early crops in the spring but wildlife control as well. Maybe some day I’ll have one. Nah, maybe not. I don’t need more work in my old age. I have at least five more years of development on the structure of Terra Nova Gardens before I can think about what’s next. Middle 70s is not the time to start thinking about extending the seasons with a high tunnel. πŸ™‚

    Have a great Fall season of harvest day.

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    • Bill says:

      Having smaller gardens will help us fence better I hope.

      A friend of ours made what he calls a “hillbilly high tunnel” by just bending cattle panels, tying them t-posts and draping plastic over them. He didn’t spend much time or money on it and is producing some beautiful veggies in there. But I know what you mean. At some point it’s probably best just to spend our time on what we have, rather than adding new things. That’s my middle 50s frame of mind. πŸ™‚

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  2. πŸ˜₯ I haven’t grown Brussels Sprouts in years as hubby doesn’t like them but I have added them to the list for growing next season. I will be glad to try out the leaves too and share the info with my B-Sprout loving friend.

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    • Bill says:

      I’ve come to love them roasted. Sorry you and he aren’t in agreement on that.
      I wouldn’t grow them just for the greens, but if you do grow them don’t miss out on those excellent greens!

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  3. shoreacres says:

    I have this image in my mind of the deer saying to one another, “Those folks over there — the ones with the great garden? They’re off on vacation for two weeks. Let’s go, boys!” I’m so sorry. I can only imagine what a shock that was. I’m glad they didn’t mow it down completely. I could have stood the loss of the Brussels sprouts, but that’s just me. πŸ™‚

    Speaking of food, I came across this very interesting article about Cuba’s newest food problem. The law of unintended consequences strikes again.

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    • Bill says:

      Oh good grief. Thanks for sharing that. Not sure if I’ve blogged about Cuba’s transition from industrially produced imported commodity crops to organic locally grown food. They had to do that out of necessity when the Soviet Union collapsed and they nearly starved in the process. But being left without imported grains, fertilizer, chemicals, tractor parts, etc. they went to urban gardens and organic farms. A dang pity that their hard-won food gains are now being siphoned off to feed tourists. But never fear, US agribusinesses are chomping at the bit to take the old Soviet Union role. In every industrial ag publication I see they’re excited about this new market for American corn, inputs, farm machinery, etc.

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  4. Ed says:

    I live in Iowa, probably the most heavily populated deer habitat in the union. We have to protect our gardens from deer 24/7 365 days a year, or at least any day you don’t want them to eat what’s growing. After years of putting in rigid fencing and making it taller and all the costs and headaches associated with that, we finally went to electrified netting. It comes in a five foot wide roll and clips to plastic posts that you put in the ground every five feet or so just using your feet. We hook it up to a standard 110V outlet from a nearby shed and it works well. Since it is somewhat irregular and flaps a bit, the deer don’t try jumping it and the electricity provides a little extra incentive. It is super easy to set up without any tools, moves easily from garden to garden depending on which one we are using that year and packs up at the end of the year into a nice roll. I’m a believer in the stuff.

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    • Bill says:

      That’s what we use too. It works fine until some enterprising deer decides to hop the fence and all of her friends follow suit. Deer supposedly have a problem with depth perception so for added protection we like to set up a second fence, about 2 or 3 feet from the interior fence. The fencing is expensive (as you know) and we haven’t had enough of it to double fence every garden. But now that we’re drastically reducing the area we use for veggies, we should be able to double-fence it all.

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  5. karenhumpage says:

    Brussel ‘tops’ have always been our favourite greens (especially with the little tiddly sprouts still attached), and are readily available in fruit & veg markets here in the UK.

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  6. thesnowwoman says:

    Those deer were watching you and waiting to see you put the suitcases in the car and drive away. I did not know about the sprout greens, I don’t think I have ever seen them for sale.

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  7. avwalters says:

    Do they taste like Brussel sprouts? (I can’t stand Brussel sprouts–can’t imagine why the deer would eat them.) I am sympathetic to your plight with damned Bambi, though. Our deer have figured out how to reach down deep into the tree cages to nip off the tops of the baby trees. Now I have to figure out how to put wire tops on them.

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    • Bill says:

      The closest comparison is to collards. If you don’t like the sprouts I wouldn’t grow them just for the greens. Broccoli and cauliflower greens are very good as well.

      We kept our young trees in cages until they outgrew them. I was happy when the trees were large enough that I didn’t think the deer could eat them, and I removed the cages. But once the cages were gone the bucks started scraping their antlers on the trunks and they’ve killed a lot of our trees that way. A pity to lose fruit trees that way after waiting so long. Grrr….

      Liked by 1 person

      • avwalters says:

        We put our orchard trees behind a 7 foot, electrified fence. Bears (for the hives) and deer, so far, have been dissuaded. At least after the initial attacks. I’m relieved that I don’t have to endure the sprouts, just to get the greens.

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  8. Sorry about the deer – I like to think you probably wouldn’t trade your winter veg for your vacation in France if forced to make a choice!
    We were in the “big city” a few weeks ago and had the most amazing Brussels sprouts – hold onto your heart – they were fried in beef fat and served with a beef aioli. They sound wicked but oh my gosh they were heavenly.
    Years ago I had a very tasty little dish at a Chinese restaurant they served as soon as you sat down . I could not for the life of me figure out what sort of vegetable it was and just could not get enough of it. I asked the waiter what it was – imagine my surprise when he said sliced broccoli stems in garlic chili oil. Back then it never occurred to me you ate anything other than the florets. I was never a big broccoli fan but now I love it and mostly just eat the stems!

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    • Bill says:

      Cherie uses broccoli stems in a few recipes too. That’s another great example of good food that we usually just throw away in our culture.

      And yes your’re right. It stinks that deer ate our gardens while we were gone, but the vacation was worth it. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  9. allisonmohr says:

    Your deer are a plague upon your house. Sorry they ate all of your fall crops. I didn’t know you could eat the leaves. How about artichoke leaves? We were really surprised at the amount of bio-mass associated with artichokes.

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  10. Yikes. I’m so sorry for the deer assault, Bill. What a shame. Our family likes Brussel’s sprouts too. We sautee them with garlic, onion and bits of bacon. A nice dish.

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