Farmer John Writes: Enigmatic Brussels Sprouts

 In Farm News

Extended Season Week 1, October 31st – November 4th

Last Week Was the Final Delivery of the Season for Many Shareholders
This is the first week of our extended season deliveries. If you are not signed up for an extended season share, please do not pick up a box during our extended season deliveries. If you pick up a box on the wrong week, it will cause a shortage at your pickup site. Please make sure that your name is on the checklist at your pickup site before taking home a box.

If you are unsure whether you have an extended season share, log in to your membership using your email address at and look under the “Memberships” tab. Another way you can check to see if you have an extended season share is to look at one of your pickup reminder emails from this season which is sent from email hidden; JavaScript is required. The weekly pickup reminder emails list all of the share types that you have in the 2017 season.

Your Box This Week — Thursday, Friday & Saturday Deliveries:

Please note: this summary is written before we pack your box—be aware that some guesswork is involved. As always, be sure to thoroughly wash all of your vegetables.

Brassicas — Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli Side Shoots or Cabbage

Fruiting Crops — Winter Squash (most likely Butternut)

Root Crops  Daikon Radish, Potatoes

Cooking Greens — Kale Tops, Baby Pac Choi (in bag), Baby Kale (in bag)

Salad Greens — Head Lettuce (maybe)

Sign up for the Free Recipe Service
Make sure you sign up for the Local Thyme recipe service we offer with your share. Local Thyme offers storage and handling tips and recipes customized to each week’s share. It has received many great reviews from our shareholders. Check out this sample recipe: Roasted Winter Squash and Brussels Sprouts with Miso Vinaigrette.

Brussels Sprouts

The Brussels Sprouts Need Your Help
The Brussels sprouts were enigmatic this season. We planted them earlier than ever, to make sure that they would mature in time for fall harvest. They slowly approached maturity this fall. We encouraged the health of the bottom sprouts by stripping off the lower leaves in early September, allowing air to move more freely, deterring blight. We encouraged the sprouts’ fullness by stripping the top leaves and harvesting many of the tops by late September, early October. This diverts the energy to sprout growth from leaf development. 

We would observe the sprouts two or three times per week, as it is quite interesting to see them develop. Primo would ask “Don’t they seem to be filling out more slowly than usual?” I’d reply, “they always seem to fill out more slowly than usual. Brussels sprouts are just slow.” Eventually it seemed they really were filling out more slowly than usual, then even more slowly. About one third of the Brussels sprouts are too tiny to give. I suspect that the flooding earlier in the season threw the Brussels sprouts off course.

The other adversity that affected the Brussels sprouts was that the outer leaves of many of the sprouts turned brown, and sometimes this blight condition went deeper than the outer leaves. I suspect that this problem also developed back during the relentless rains, though it didn’t really present fully until fall. Please don’t panic if some of the sprouts on your stalk are brown. This is a common condition amongst many of the leafy crops this year. The crew usually just removes the damaged leaves until they reach the nice, green leaves further inside. In the case of Brussels sprouts, however, it’s too time intensive to remove all the darkened outer leaves.

This is where you come in. Strip your Brussels sprouts off the stalk by twisting or cutting. Use a knife to cut the base of any sprouts with darkened leaves. These dark leaves will then fall away, and in most cases, will leave you with a lovely green sprout underneath. (Lesson: even a person you don’t like the looks of might possess an inner loveliness waiting to be discovered.)

Slice through the base of the sprout with brown leaves.

The brown outer leaves will fall off, revealing inner beauty.

Here’s a video for how to peel off the bad leavesHow to Trim Brussels Sprouts.

Your Brussels sprouts have now gone through a couple of frosts, so they should be extra sweet. Many of our shareholders have commented on how much they love our Brussels sprouts, and, with a little extra work on your part this year, we think they will be as lovable as ever.

Kale Tops
Now that the season is nearing a close, we harvest the tops of the kale for you. Like the Brussels sprouts, these tops have been through a couple of frosts. Additionally, the tops include the tender young leaves that have just recently formed, so your kale will be extra sweet, also.

We occasionally receive a comment from a shareholder that Saturday deliveries are sometimes the harvest leftovers—not so. We harvest throughout the week, and Saturday deliveries are not under-prioritized. Deliveries might vary for some items throughout the week, but contant preference is never assigned according to a day of the week.

Protect Organic
I’ve brought this up in a prior issue of Farm News, but it is worth repeating. There is an enormous push to allow hydroponic crops to be certified organic. Here’s an excerpt from Next7: “Amazon, who has recently bought Whole Foods, now wants to scale their investment by mass-producing food they can call organic. Driscolls, MiracleGro, Scott’s — companies whose profit come from conventionally-grown produce, synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and genetically-engineered grass seed — all these corporations are behind the push to call their cheap produce organic.

Read more about it at, where you can also sign a petition that states your opposition to this certification drive.

After Rice
After the rice harvest, what to do with the wara (rice straw)? Check out Modern Farmer Rice Sculpture.

Daikon Greens
“I feel sad for the people who are not willing to try a green that they have never eaten before, just because they have never eaten it. People can be funny about unfamiliar foods…I adore the daikon radish leaves.  They are so sweet and mild. They make an excellent pesto and there is a Japanese recipe I found that tastes quite similar to gomae, made with spinach from a  Japanese restaurant.  

I liked the daikon greens so much last year, I actually grew some daikon radishes in my own garden this year….thank you for doing all you do.”

~ Andrea Quintana
Shareholder since 1996, Evanston North Site Host since 2001

Daikon with greens in Andrea Quintana’s garden

Wife: This is one of those moments when I need you to listen to me and to understand me.

Husband: Oh, one of those 12,000 moments.

Do What?
I read Rudolf Steiner’s work pretty much every night before going to sleep. Rudolf Steiner founded Biodynamic agriculture among many other initiatives such as Waldorf education. I think this quote below has special merit. So many people try to do the right thing, but what’s the right thing?

“People often ask whether it wouldn’t be better to use the time that one uses for development for doing good deeds in the world. But occultists must reply that time that’s spent on development isn’t wasted. For a [person] can only work well and rightly for mankind by making [oneself] more perfect. Outer deeds that seem to be ever so good can be harmful; one just doesn’t know it.”

~ Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, June 5th, 1908

Farmer John

Please Fold Your Boxes Properly and Return Them
The farm re-uses the vegetable boxes. Each box costs the farm over $1.50. We appreciate getting them back so we can re-use them. Flaps are easily torn when the boxes are dismantled improperly, and then the box bottom might later burst open with fresh, organic local produce heading towards the floor. Please carefully flatten your box and return it to your delivery site. If you receive home delivery, place it in the location where your box is delivered.

Let us Know
Let our office know anything you’d like to share about this week’s box at email hidden; JavaScript is required. Please note the week and day of delivery, your site, when you picked up your box, and any comments about your box.

More from Shareholders
Visit us often at, where we post exciting farm developments regularly, and shareholders post recipes, tips, and photos.

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