Posts Tagged ‘fascinating facts’

Fascinating Facts: Brussels Sprouts

December 10th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments


Botanical name: Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera
Origins: Native to the Mediterranean region along with other cabbage species.

First cultivated: Although a forerunner to the modern sprout may have been grown in Ancient Rome, Brussels sprouts, as we know them today, were first grown in 13th Century Flanders (part of modern day Belgium).

Types: There are green varieties available (including the popular and reliable ‘Cascade’ and ‘Revenge’), and red varieties (such as ‘Rubine’).

Did you know?

Britons eat more Brussels sprouts than any other nation in Europe. Our sprout industry is worth £650,000,000, and the area covered by sprout fields in the UK is the equivalent of 3,240 football pitches. It’s fair to say that these days, no one loves sprouts more than the British.

It’s equally true that no vegetable divides opinion more than the humble Brussels sprout. While so many of us love them, others hate them, which could be due to the specific gene TAS2R38, otherwise known as the ‘Brussels sprouts gene’ which regulates bitterness perception. Or it could be down to the way they’re cooked.


The precursors to modern Brussels sprouts were grown in Ancient Rome, but the sprouts we’re familiar with were first cultivated back in the 13th century, in what is now Belgium. It is thought that the vegetable is named after the Belgian capital, where they became a popular crop in the 16th century.

Sprouts only became popular in Britain at the end of the 1800s. However, up until relatively recently, many of us were only familiar with the overboiled Brussels sprout, dished up at festive family feasts in December. Mushy, yellowing and with a smell akin to rotten eggs, the tendency to overcook sprouts helped secure its reputation as one of the nation’s most hated vegetables.

These days, steamed, sautéed and stir-fried sprouts have helped drive the popularity of the vegetable, convincing sprout sceptics that they can be rather delicious. They’re also highly adaptable. From salads and skewers to curries and pizzas, Brussels sprouts can lend themselves to most recipes. For those who insist on boiling them, there remains the contentious matter of whether a cross should be cut into its base. While some cooks believe this age-old tradition helps the vegetable cook evenly, others feel it makes no difference, and a spokesperson for the Brassica Growers Association recently claimed it ruins the vegetable!

fascinating-facts-about-brussels-sproutsIn fact, the tradition of cutting a cross in the base of a sprout might have less to do with culinary technique and more to do with superstition. In Medieval times, it was believed that evil spirits and demons lived between the leaves of the vegetable, and they would enter anyone who ate them, making them ill. A cross cut into the base of the sprouts was thought to  drive the evil spirits away.

Nowadays, we’re more familiar with the nutrients hiding inside the vegetable. A 80g serving of Brussels sprouts contains four times more Vitamin C than an orange, which helps strengthen the immune system, repairs tissue damage and promotes iron absorption. Sprouts are also rich in Vitamin K, which contributes to strong bones and can help with blood clotting.

There are more than 110 different varieties of Brussels sprout available, as well as the Flower Sprout, a sprout/kale hybrid which contains double the vitamin B6 and C of a traditional sprout. It’s certainly worth devoting a section of your vegetable patch to Brussels sprouts, they’re relatively easy to grow, adaptable in the kitchen, and packed full of health-boosting nutrients. And what could be better than serving up your own homegrown sprouts at Christmas?

To browse all our varieties of Brussels sprouts seeds just follow this link to the Brussels sprouts seeds section of our website.


Fascinating Facts: Chard

April 1st, 2018 | News | 0 Comments


Botanical name: Beta vulgaris subsp. cicla

Origins: Chard is a cultivated descendent of the wild sea beet.

First cultivated: Chard can be traced back to ancient times. It supposedly grew in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, was grown in China as early as the 7th Century BC and was cultivated in ancient Greece and Rome around 300-400 BC.

Types: Popular varieties of the vegetable include Bright Lights and Rhubarb Chard.

Skill level: Easy

Preferred location and conditions: Prefers rich, moisture-retentive soil in an open, sunny site.

Good for containers: Yes

Planting and growing: Sow thinly from March to July in trenches 2.5 cm deep and 10 cm apart, in rows 45 cm apart. Alternatively, sow in modules and plant out 2-4 weeks later.

Harvest time: Spring sowings should be ready to harvest from about 12 weeks and regular pickings will ensure a continuous supply. Seeds sown in July will be ready to harvest throughout the autumn and winter.

Possible problems:   Mildew and grey mould can be a problem in humid weather. Ensure there is plenty of space surrounding the plants to improve air circulation.


Did you know?

Chard has had a long and distinguished history. Prized for its medicinal properties as much as its culinary versatility, ancestors of this colourful vegetable supposedly grew in the fabled Hanging Gardens of Babylon, flourished in China during the 7th century BC, and were even written about by Aristotle in Ancient Greece.

It has grown in Britain since at least 1596, when English botanist, John Gerard, recorded growing it in his famous Herball. Its name comes from the Latin word for ‘thistle’ (carduus) but the vegetable goes by many alternative names including, silver beet, beet spinach, seakale beet, and leaf beet. It is also commonly referred to as Swiss chard, although since the plant originated in the Mediterranean, this prefix is somewhat misleading. It is thought that the Dutch seed merchants of the 19th century added the word ‘Swiss’ to differentiate the plant from French spinach varieties.Rainbow-chard-variety

Despite being revered in ancient times, chard is a little overlooked these days, which is a shame, as it’s easy to grow, extremely good for you, and beautiful to look at. The multi-coloured stems of the Bright Lights variety are particularly eye-catching and a welcome sight on winter allotments when there is little colour.

A nutrient-packed leafy green, chard is milder than kale but has an earthy sweetness that packs more punch than spinach. Young leaves can be eaten raw in salads and the mature leaves can be steamed, boiled, stir-fried, and added to tarts, stews and sauces. It is extremely popular in Italian cooking, and a key ingredient in the traditional Torta Pasqualina (Easter Pie), combined with ricotta and hard boiled-eggs, and encased in pastry. The real culinary advantage of chard, however, is that you get two vegetables for the price of one, as the succulent stalks are a delicacy in themselves. They require a little extra cooking, so cook them separately to the leaves, chopping them like celery and sweating them with onions at the start of a dish. It is worth noting that chard doesn’t keep well in the fridge, a few days at most, so it’s always advisable to eat the stalks and leaves fresh.

Once used as a cure for a variety of ailments including dandruff, anaemia, jaundice and toothache, these days, a diet rich in chard is known to decrease the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. It is packed with antioxidants, and contains high levels of vitamins K, A and C, magnesium, potassium, iron and fibre. Eating plenty of chard can help maintain bone health, improve digestion, regulate blood sugar levels and contribute to healthy brain function. Chard also contains chlorophyll which, according to numerous studies, may be effective in combatting cancer.

Chard is an excellent leaf to grow in your garden. It’s an easier crop than spinach, can tolerate extremes of temperature and is very prolific. Research also suggests it can even grow in space! Chard was one of a handful of crops tested as part of NASA’s Veggie Project to determine the best way to grow vegetables for long-term space missions.

To browse all the chard varieties we have on offer at Mr Fothergill’s just follow this link to the chard section of our website.

Royal Horticultural Society

Read more on the RHS website about how to grow chard here.