Brassica oleracea gemmifera

“Brussels Sprouts”

By: Mandy Krueger


By: Mandy Krueger


Classification of Brussels sprouts:

Domain: Eukarya – The Brussels sprout is a eukaryotic organism.  Its cell type is eukaryotic.  It has a nuclear envelope and more than one chromosome.  The chromosome figuration is linear.  They have a cytoskeleton and chlorophyll based photosynthesis.

Kingdom: Plantae – The Brussels sprout is a member of the plant family.  It is a terrestrial plant.  It has an alteration of generations between the sporophyte and the gametophyte generation, which means that it has a haploid and diploid phase.  

Phylum: Anthophyta – The Brussels sprout is a vascular plant with seeds and flowers.  It is a member of the angiosperms.

Class: Eudicotyledones – The Brussels sprout has two cotyledons.  Its flowering parts are typically in fours or fives.  It usually has netlike venation and the primary vascular bundles are in a ring shape.  The Brussels sprout has secondary growth.

Order: Capparales – The capparales are made up of herbs, small trees, shrubs, and lianas.  Their leaves are either alternate or opposite and can be compound or simple.  The capparales’s flowers are bisexual.

Family: Brassicaceae – Part of the mustard family.  It is a plant that has flowering parts in fours.

Genus: Brassica – This is the genus for mustards.  The mustards include cabbages, cauliflowers, and turnips.

Species: Brassica oleracea – It is part of the cabbage species.  The cabbage species has edible leaves and flowers.

Variety: Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera – The variety is the Brussels sprout.



What do I look like?

          The Brassica oleracea gemmifera or Brussels sprout is a popular edible vegetative crop.  It is a biennial plant that prefers a cooler climate for optimal growth.  During the first year of growth is when the Brussels sprouts form, while a seed head is produced the second year of growth (3).  The Brussels sprout is a member of the cabbage family, but it is also related to broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and kale (7).  In fact, each Brussels sprout is a small round structure that looks like a miniature cabbage ranging between the size of a walnut and a golf ball (1).  Brussels sprouts are green in color, but the shade of green can vary from a light green to a dark grayish green.  The sprouts grow in clusters along an upright stem with the older, more mature sprouts at the base of the stem and the younger, developing sprouts at the top of the plant.  There can be up to one hundred sprouts forming on the stem at one time, WOW (1).  The leaves of the Brussels sprout plant are typically round to heart shaped and have a waxy texture covering the surface (5).  Actually, the Brussels sprout is a modified leave of  the plant.  The flower of the Brussels sprout is perfect, which means that it has both stamens and carpels on it.  The flower is typically pollinated by insects.  The Brussels sprout plant can have either a taproot or a fibrous adventitious root system.  The type of root system it has depends on the care taken during transplanting of the plant.  The taproot of the Brussels sprout is fragile and usually breaks during transplant, therefore leading to the formation of the adventitious root system (6).




Max-Planck-Institute for Plant Breeding Research


To Grow or Not to Grow?

          Brussels sprouts grow best in cool, moist climates between 60 to 65º F.  Warmer climates can result in sprouts that are softer with loose leaves and less flavor.  It is best to plant sprouts in the early to mid spring.  When planting sprouts in outdoor gardens, most people choose to transplant already grown young sprout plants, but seeds can also be used (4).  However, if using seeds to grow Brussels sprouts, it is best to start the seeds indoors and later transplant them outdoors.  It is important that the Brussels sprout not be planted with or near any other plant belonging to the Brassica genus, such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, or mustard (6).  It is also recommended that sprouts not be planted in soil that has had other Brassica plants recently planted in it.  Sprouts require a lot of water, but not too much so that the soil becomes water stressed.  When planting sprouts, it is best to do it in soil that is rich with organic matter.        



Where did I come from?

            Brussels sprouts were originally grown in Europe (2).  They are believed to have gotten their name from being grown in Brussels, Belgium over four hundred years ago where they were a popular vegetable crop (7).  Brussels sprouts were also a popular food source for French settlers in Louisiana because they could be cultivated several times during the growing season (6).  In the United States, Brussels sprouts are grown mostly in California and New York.  However, they are a popular vegetable that many people grow in their gardens at home.      



Yummy…Yummy…Yummy in my Tummy!

            Brussels sprouts are a delicious edible plant with a lot of nutritional benefits.  They are a main source of protein, iron, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamins A, B, and C (3).  In fact, one cup of Brussels sprouts has over one hundred and sixty percent the daily recommended allowance of vitamin C (3).  An added bonus to eating Brussels sprouts is that they have fewer than fifty calories per serving and are relatively fat free (3).

            Brussels sprouts can be prepared and served in many ways.  They make an excellent side dish or can be used to accent many main dishes.  However, it is important to remember to always wash them and trim the stems before eating them.  Also, you should avoid eating Brussels sprouts that are yellow in color, soft, or have holes in their leaves (3).  When preparing Brussels sprouts, a cross or x-shape should be cut in the stem to ensure even cooking (2).  They should be boiled in water with the cover on the pan for a period of ten to fifteen minutes.  The Brussels sprout is ready to eat when it is tender and a fork can easily be inserted into it.  The best time to eat Brussels sprouts is right after harvesting them.  One of my favorite Brussels sprout recipes includes adding a pinch of salt, melted butter, lemon juice, and sliced almonds to already cooked Brussels sprouts.




By: Mandy Krueger



I will Survive!

            Brussels sprouts serve as a host for many different types of insects, but the most common insects found on them are the larvae of moths and butterflies.  Infestation of insects can occur any time during the sprout’s growing season, so it is important to inspect the plants often and monitor for insects.  Most of the insects that live on Brussels sprouts can be found on their leaves.  These insects include the Cabbage Looper, Diamond Back Moth Larvae, and the Imported Cabbageworm (6).  However, there is also a common insect found on the roots of the sprouts called the Cabbage Maggot.  The Cabbage Maggot is harder to detect and can do a lot more damage to the plant because it destroys the roots ability to take up water and nutrients for the plant (6).  One recommended strategy to keep insects off from Brussels sprouts is to treat them with a mild, diluted detergent (2).

            In addition, Brussels sprouts are also susceptible to many diseases.  Some of the common diseases affecting sprouts include Downy Mildew, Fusarium Yellows, Clubroot, Black rot, and Black Leg (6).  Most of the diseases that harm sprouts are caused by funguses, but some of them are produced by bacteria.  The best way to prevent diseases from plaguing sprouts is through the use of fungicides and bactericides.



Pick Me…Pick Me! 

            Brussels sprouts are ready to be harvested when they are a bright green color, are firm and hard to the touch, and are about the size of a walnut.  Sprouts with yellowing leaves at the bottom of the stem should be removed immediately.  The Brussels sprouts at the base of the stem should be removed first, since the sprouts at the top of the stem are still maturing.  They can be harvested several times during the growth season, as long as the lowest sprouts are picked each time (4).  To remove the sprouts, the leaf below each sprout should be taken off first and then the sprout should be removed.  It is important not to remove the leaves just above the sprouts, because these leaves provide nutrients for the plant and can aid in a longer more productive growth season (3).  The sprouts can be snapped off from the stem or a serrated knife can be used.  After removing the sprouts from the stem it is best to cook them or to freeze them immediately.  To properly freeze Brussels sprouts, they should first be soaked in salt water and boiled in fresh water (4).  After removing the sprouts from the boiling water they should immediately be cooled and then frozen.   


 By: Mandy Krueger  





1. Better Homes and Gardens. (1968). New garden book: A complete guide for roses,

         trees, lawns, shrubs, soils, landscaping, and construction.


2. Burpee, L. (1983). Gardener’s companion and cookbook: Delectable recipes and

         invaluable advice on growing vegetables and fruit from America’s foremost

         gardening family. New York, NY: Harper & Row Publishers.


3. Hendrickson, A., & Hendrickson, J. (1989). Broccoli & company: Over 1oo healthy

         recipes. Pownal, VT: Storey Communications Inc.


4. Newcomb, D. (1975). The postage stamp garden book: How to grow all the food you

         can eat in very little space. Los Angeles, CA: J.P. Tarcher Inc.


5. Ryder, E. (1979). Leafy salad vegetables. Westport, CT: AVI Publishing Company.


Electronic Media

6. The University of Georgia. Brussels Sprouts: Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera

         [Online]. Available: The article

         focuses on different characteristics, the history, development, cultural practices,   

         diseases, insects, and harvesting methods of Brussels sprouts.


7. The University of Florida. Brussels Sprouts – Brassica oleracea L. (Gemmifera

         group). [Online]. Available: The article

         focuses on the characteristics, the culturing of, and the harvesting of Brussels



8. Dr. Wolfgang Schuchert. Brussels Sprouts (Brassica oleracea L. var. gemmifera).

         [Online]. Available:

         article focuses on the distribution, yield, and use of Brussels sprouts.  I used this

         website for its picture of Brussels sprouts.