Bumper Brussels: Sprouts set to be biggest in 10 years after near-perfect growing conditions

Much-maligned Christmas dinner vegetables are also set to be sweeter than usual

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Indy Lifestyle Online

They strike fear into the heart of vegetable-dodging children and regularly pit families against each other in the flatulent aftermath of Christmas dinner, but this year those of us that don’t pass on Brussels sprouts are set to enjoy the benefits of the largest and sweetest little cabbage harvest in decades.

Thought of by many healthy eaters as something of a super food, this year’s near-perfect growing conditions have led to the largest sprouts for 10 years and a bumper sized harvest.

The much-maligned Brussels sprout is set to be sweeter than usual too, thanks to unexpected sunshine in September and October alongside the “right the right amount” of autumn rain, according to growers.

“Not only are the sprouts generally larger this year but the overall quality is also better because of extra sunshine,” said Luke Shutler, a vegetable buyer at Tesco, who added that an unexpected benefit of the larger sprouts would be that they will be easier to peel in the kitchen

Despite the sweet sprout bounty, two major supermarket chains have been trading festive hot air over whether they will be able to keep up with demand over the next two days, when up to 30 per cent of the annual sprout harvest will hit shelves.

Last week Tesco announced it was set to deliver 1,000 tonnes of sprouts this week, while rival Morrisons warned British families were facing a “sprout shortage” after one its supplies reported a poor crop. For its part, Morrisons is even drafting in “fresh inspectors” to monitor sprouts and check they produce the “squeaky” noise sprouts should apparently make when they are fresh.

“Morrisons said they were struggling. then they said they had plenty of sprouts,” said Richard Mowbray, the commercial director at Lincolnshire vegetable grower TH Clements which supplies Tesco. “I’m not sure what that’s about, but it’s probably something of a PR war I think. Either way, there is no shortage of sprouts here and they are tastier than ever thanks to a warm summer and just the right amount of rain to keep the fields moist through autumn.”

TH Clements is the biggest supplier for Tesco and is now planting 30 per more land than it did five years ago to meet growing demand. This weekend is the “peak time” of the year as they despatched 1,000 tonnes of sprouts to meeting demand on Monday and Tuesday.

With less than a week until Christmas Matthew Rawson, chairman of The Brassica Association of green growers, also stepped in to reassure Christmas shoppers that growers are “working flat-out to keep up with retailer demand” at the end of what he describes as “a year of success for Brussels sprouts.”

Nationally the industry is worth £54m a year to retailers but in previous years British shoppers have had to make do with imported sprouts from France, Holland and Germany. In a reversal of fortunes, this year the native crop is so healthy that much of Britain’s crop will be exported to Europe.

In a major boost to growers recent figures suggest sprouts may no longer be just for Christmas too, as sales of sprouts, combined with kale and broccoli, have soared 54 per cent in the past 12 months, according to market research firm Kantar Worldpanal.