What The Sam Hill Are These Things?
Holy guacamole, Batman!
What are these leafy looking things growing on a Brussels-sprout-looking plant?
Why, Robin, that’s a flower sprout.
And, pray tell, what in Heaven’s name is a flower sprout, Batman?
It’s a new vegetable invented by Tozer Seeds in the United Kingdom that hit the European markets in 2010. By then, flower sprouts were being called Kalettes. And, when they finally made it to North America, they were referred to as lollipops.
Holy lollipops, Batman!
Whether you want to call them flower sprouts, kalettes, or, simply lollipops, these frilly leafy growths are a cross between kale and Brussels sprouts.
I suppose the names given to them are better than what I would have chosen which would have been something like kale sprouts – or Brussels-ettes – or maybe even Brussels kale. I do think that “lollipops” goes a little too far, though, don’t you?
But, I’m rambling – let’s get back to the heart of the matter.
It took a decade to develop flower sprouts. And, it took a decade and a half – using innovative marketing techniques – to gain world acceptance as individuals learned to enjoy these tasty little leafy buds.
More Nutritious Than Kale or Brussels Sprouts
It’s like synergy. Take one veggie – combine it with another veggie – and create a new veggie that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Since these little blooms are just like baby frilly purple streaked kale leaves surrounding a tiny diminutive Brussels sprout-like cabbage, they can be easily used in any way that kale leaves are used.
Their sweet, nutty flavor encompasses the best tastes of both kale and Brussels sprouts.
Rinse these little buggers off – then they can be boiled, blanched, steamed, stir fried, sautéed – or, cooked just about any way imaginable.
Growing These Little Delicacies
To start off with, there are currently 3 seed varieties available for the home gardener; one for early season harvest, one for mid season harvest, and one for late season harvest. All of these varieties will produce florets about 2 inches in diameter on a Brussels sprout type of stalk. Each packet is sold with 10 seeds each.
Autumn Star Hybrid kalettes – The Autumn Star Hybrid is bred for early season harvest and reach maturity in about 110 days.
Mistletoe Hybrid kalettes – The Mistletoe Hybrid is the best choice for a mid season harvest – maturing in 124 days – give or take a few days.
Snowdrop Hybrid kalettes – These Snowdrop Hybrid kalettes are a top pick for a late season harvest taking 138 days to mature.
In all cases, leaves can actually be picked anytime. It is best to start with the lower leaves and work up the stalk – just like picking Brussels sprouts.
Since kalettes grow on a Brussels sprout stalk, planting and maintenance is very similar.
Planting These Gems
Visit the United States Department of Agriculture for a full view, interactive hardiness zone map.
In hardiness zones 6 and below, begin transplanting kalettes into the ground just after the last heavy frost for an early fall harvest.
In zones 7 and above, where winters and their accompanying frosts are mild, the tastiest kalettes can be had by transplanting in September – and beginning to harvest shortly after a frost when the leaves are the most appetizing.
Planting is much the same as it is with Brussels sprouts – with just a few variations.
- Till the soil at least 6 inches deep – 8 inches is preferable.
- Dig a hole 2 times the size of the root ball.
- Gently loosen the root ball with your fingers before placing it in the hole. This will facilitate root growth.
- Add Jim’s 50/50 soil mixture all around the root ball – completely enclosing it in the soil mixture and, gently firm the soil around the root ball.
- Space the plants 18 inches apart in each row.
- Keep the rows about 2 feet apart.
- Water well and mulch around each plant. This will help to retain moisture and inhibit the ability of weeds to grow.
- The plants should receive at least an inch of water per week.
- Floating row covers are excellent at keeping out insects that love to dine on these sweet little leaves.
- Hopefully the plants will be at least 2 to 3 feet high before cold weather sets in – that is the goal.
- When the florets are one half to three quarters of an inch in diameter, you can pinch off the growing point at the top of the plant – that will concentrate growth in the floret leaves. Then, the uppermost florets will begin maturing quicker than those at the bottom of the plant.
Let Me Get My Hands On Those Kalettes
When the crop is ready for picking, grab the florets and remove with a twist – the same as you would with Brussels sprouts. Rinse with water and prepare them raw for salads or cook them the same way that you would cook kale.
Kalettes will last for up to a week in the refrigerator. Longer storage, several months or more, can be accomplished by freezing them.
Pests and Diseases
The cabbage worms are easily controlled using Safer Brand Caterpillar Killer Concentrate.
The most common diseases are the same as those for kale and Brussels sprouts – typically downy and powdery mildew or leaf spot.
Crop rotation is highly recommended to prevent transfer of diseases from year to year. If the diseases are caught early enough, try a good dose of Daconil or Physan 20 to fend off the fungi. Otherwise, if the plants are too far gone, completely remove the plants, bag them and throw them in with the rest of the trash for pickup. Don’t dump them anywhere near a compost pile or garden area – because, they will come back to haunt you.
Call Them What You Will
Whatever you call them – kalettes – flower sprouts – lollipops – these little florets are a very delectable and delicate new veggie that is worth a try. You won’t know if you like them until you try them.
So, give ‘em a go and comment below – tell me if you liked them or, if you will try them!