Sprouts being harvested by Jane Bentley at TH Clements farm in Boston / TH Clements/PA Wire

Festive shoppers can relax after last year's warnings of sprouts shortage

Brussels sprouts lovers can relax after last year's warnings of a sprouts shortage right before Christmas, because growers have this year experienced their earliest ever crop of the traditional festive vegetable.

The torrid season last year made brought about rumours of a yuletide sprouts drought, but "perfect growing conditions" have this year led to British crops being ready a month earlier than usual.

It is good news for growers who, after enduring the soggy 2012 season, are now optimistic that the yield this year could comparatively be up by as much as 30 per cent.

One of the UK's biggest growers of sprouts and other brassica are TH Clements who are based near Boston in Lincolnshire.

The company said that this year's early arrival will help make up for last year when heavy rain hampered growing and resulted in a poor yield.

Chris Gedney, managing director of TH Clements said: "The conditions are absolutely ideal especially with the recent rain that has followed a good month of sunshine. If the spring had not been so cold the sprouts would have arrived even earlier."

Sprouts became part of our staple "meat and two veg" diet during and after the Second World War mainly due to rationing, but in the 80s and 90s their popularity was affected by changes in our eating habits and increasingly exotic diets.

They also bore the brunt of schoolboy jokes which helped dampen the enthusiasm of an entire generation that led to general sales - outside of the Christmas market - falling into decline through the 90s.

However sprout popularity rose again during the noughties as a result of them often being used in recipes and TV cookery programmes by celebrity chefs.

It is estimated that as much as 80 per cent of total British sprout sales take place in the two week Christmas and New Year period.

The early arrival of sprouts this week on British high streets will also benefit retailers as it will mean reducing the need for more costly imports.

Usually during the April to August off season, UK retailers import sprouts from South Africa and Morocco and it means they can be now offered all year round.

Tesco chilled vegetables buyer Lance Canavan said: "The early arrival of British sprouts is great. They're considered the best tasting in the world. It means we can offer them all year round instead of having to rely on imports."