How to grow great brassicas – from brussels sprouts to cabbages

Pay attention to those you planted earlier in the year, particularly if you want to brandish your own brussels on Christmas Day

If I have a true love, it must be the genus, brassica. I didn’t expect to fall so hard. It’s hardly a glamorous one: its members are wide and varied, and often pungent – think of the sulphurous tang of boiled cabbage or the whiff of fermented sauerkraut. But I find that when I look upon a brassica I see the most beautiful of vegetables. I love how they look nestled among the flowers of my garden; I regularly make vases of kales, and marvel at the packed interiors of cabbages.

The wild cabbage, Brassica oleracea, is a diffuse and polymorphic species, which is another way of saying it is good at self-love. A long time ago we took one wild and wayward species, and selected and selected and selected until a wildling became a kale, became a cabbage, became broccoli or cauliflower or a brussels sprout. For brassica nerds, there are eight major cultivar groups.

Related: How to mulch in autumn | Alys Fowler

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