5 Clear Signals Your Brussels Sprouts Are Ready to Be Harvested (Plus Tips on Storing Them) 

Written by Sam Hindman
Updated: October 10, 2023
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If you’ve never had to harvest Brussels sprouts before- don’t fret. The process is actually fairly simple. Unlike other vegetables, like cabbages, for instance, there isn’t a single head that you have to remove. Instead, the tall stalks of Brussels sprouts make harvesting an easy task that requires very little knowledge. But every plant has its particulars! And, when it comes time to harvest Brussels sprouts, there are certain things you should know.

In this article, we’ll be providing you tips on not only when to harvest Brussels sprouts but also how to harvest them. And, once you become a sprout-harvesting master, you can use some of the ideas at the end of this article to cook them up!

Finding The Right Time to Harvest Your Brussels Sprouts

1. It’s Getting Chilly

Brussels sprouts on the stalk

It’s said that Brussels sprouts harvested after the “first frost” of the winter are much sweeter and generally carry a fuller flavor.

©mm7/Shutterstock.com

When the summer has come to an end, and you’re beginning to feel the oncoming winter weather, you might panic and want to rush to begin your harvesting. If it’s Brussels sprouts, though, then not to worry! As a cool-weather crop, these plants are always harvested in the late fall. In fact, many say that the best time to harvest Brussels sprouts is after the first frost of the year. This process, which allegedly makes the crops taste sweeter and more flavorful, is called “cold sweetening.”

That being said, these plants aren’t indescribable. Make sure you’ve harvested them all before the thick of winter rolls around, as the severe cold will eventually kill them. Generally speaking, these temperatures are ones that begin falling below 25°F.

2. They’ve Grown A Lot in Size

Fresh stalks of Brussels sprouts

Before you harvest your Brussels sprouts, make sure they’re firm to the touch.

©iStock.com/Carmen Hauser

The next sign that they’re ready to be harvested also has to do with patience. Though you should keep track of your plant’s growth and check on it daily for progress, don’t feel the need to jump the gun too early. Usually, the first batch of sprouts won’t be ready for around four months after initially being planted. Make sure that the sprouts are firm to the touch and, perhaps more importantly, that they’ve grown wide enough. If you want the maximum possible amount of nutritional value and delicious flavor, you should only harvest Brussels sprouts once they’ve reached at least an inch and up to an inch and a half in diameter.

3. You’ve Removed Any Plant Leaves

Brussels sprouts growing on stalks in a field

Be careful you don’t prune away every leaf on your Brussels sprouts, as this affects photosynthesis.

©Anton Havelaar/Shutterstock.com

This next tip is important for the weeks before the harvest but can also prove quite helpful throughout the entire growing process. This is the act of regularly going through the plant and pruning away any extra or exceptionally large leaves you might find. These leaves don’t do anything bad to the Brussels sprouts, but they can, unfortunately, take essential nutrients away from the sprouts to fuel their own growth.

There is another benefit to removing these leaves, too. Because they can sometimes obscure your view of the Brussels sprouts, making it more difficult for you to see and remove them, it’s best that you clear them out. Be careful, though! If you prune away all the leaves, there’ll be nothing left for the plant to photosynthesize with. This essential process relies on the presence of at least some leaves.

4. You Are Prepared to Pick Frequently

brussels sprouts on field covered snow

Check on your plant regularly to see if you have healthy sprouts to harvest.

©Volodymyr_Plysiuk/iStock via Getty Images

Before you begin picking Brussels sprouts for the season, make sure you have your game face on. These sprouts don’t all develop at once, you see. Checking on the plant frequently is essential for healthy growth because the sprouts that are already ripe and ready for the taking could potentially be using up energy that would be better served toward unripe, growing sprouts. It’s a win-win, in this sense. You have regularly increasing amounts of ripe Brussels sprouts in the kitchen, and the plant is able to produce more sprouts more efficiently.

5. Their Leaves Haven’t Yellowed

A hand picks Brussels sprouts, the leaves as dusted with snow

Look for any signs of yellowing as a tell that it’s time to pick your Brussels sprouts.

©gabort71/ via Getty Images

The next sign to harvest your Brussels sprouts is that you see faint signs of yellowing. Yellow sprouts are overripe, and an overripe sprout is certainly not a tasty one. These sprouts will take on a bitter flavor that will essentially make them inedible. Remember that your plant will grow from the ground up, progressively growing the sprouts higher. For this reason, you should begin harvesting from the bottom and work your way up. By doing this, you can avoid any Brussels sprouts overstaying their welcome on the plant and beginning to yellow.

6. You Know The Best Harvesting Practices

Brussel sprouts growing on stalk

Don’t harvest your Brussels sprouts until you feel ready, and be sure you research the process well.

©Dave Litterio/iStock via Getty Images

Another sign that you’re ready to harvest your Brussels sprouts is that you actually feel prepared. You’ve read up on the methodology, and you’re confident in your ability to do a quality job. If you need a little bit more guidance on this front, keep reading below for some information on the best ways to conduct your Brussels sprouts harvest.

How to Harvest Brussels Sprouts

Fresh stalks of Brussels sprouts

You can pick the Brussels sprouts individually as they ripen, or if it’s late in the season, you can harvest the whole stalk in one go!

©iStock.com/Carmen Hauser

Technically speaking, there are two ways in which you can go about harvesting your Brussels sprouts. You can do it by harvesting each of the sprouts individually, or you can opt to harvest the entire plant if you feel as though it’s ready to go all at once! Here is a bit of advice for each method.

When it comes to individual picking, which is likely what you’ll need to do, there are a few simple steps. First, you’ll want to make sure that you’re picking the sprouts at the bottom first since the plant grows vertically. There are times when you can easily break off the head from the stem by giving it a sharp twist. But there are other times when tools will come in handy. You can use something like pruners, or any kind of sharp object, to get them out of there.

If you reach a point in the year where you’re certain that the Brussels sprouts won’t keep producing, or if it just looks like it’s all been ripened at once, you can also decide to harvest the entire stalk at one time. You can then try to cut through the stems, or if that proves difficult, tug the plant and its roots from the ground. Once removed, snap off all of the remaining leaves. Then, there you are! You can pick, store, and cook the sprouts from then on.

Tips for Storage and Cooking

Bowl of roasted Brussels sprouts

There are a variety of ways to prepare Brussels sprouts, making them a very versatile dish.

©Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock.com

Now that you’ve learned not only when and how to harvest Brussels sprouts, I’m sure that you’re wondering what to do with them. Well, there are a number of ways to prepare these delicious veggies and store them properly so you can get the absolute most out of them.

To store your Brussels sprouts, the best method is to place them into a plastic bag and put them in a secure area of the refrigerator. When stored this way, the sprouts should last you about a week, and sometimes longer. Another fantastic way to keep them fresh? Leave them on the stalk until it’s time to use them! Keep that stalk in the fridge and remove the individual heads when it’s time to prepare them. A very important rule regarding these vegetables is that you should not wash them until it’s preparation time. Excess moisture can cause their decay to accelerate.

Preparation Methods

Now, for the most fun part: Eating the Brussels sprouts! They are an excellent source of vitamins C and K, making them a healthy addition to your plate. There are a number of ways to prepare these yummy vegetables, but here are a few of the most preferable methods:

  • Toss the sprouts in a desired combination of oil and seasonings, and then roast them in a pan.
  • Shred the Brussels sprouts and use them as a base for a stir-fry.
  • Steam the Brussels sprouts and use them as a side dish for a meal.
  • A fan favorite (as well as one of my own) is grilling the sprouts until they’re nice and charred.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Sam Hindman is a writer at A-Z animals covering a range of topics, including pet care, plant care, pest control and travel destinations. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Multimedia Studies at Point Park University, set to graduate in the spring of 2024. A resident of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, when she isn't writing, she's spending time with her beloved cat Archie.

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