When our Maya was 3 years old, we asked her which vegetable she’d like to plant in “her” garden. Without skipping a beat, she shouted, “Bacon!”
A more imaginative mother might have handed her daughter a bunch of bacon bits, helped her plant them in the garden as though they were seeds, and then surprised her one summer morning with a “harvest” of “homegrown” bacon. I am not particularly imaginative, however, so I explained to her that bacon comes from pigs, not plants, and maybe she wanted to plant pumpkins instead? (It was the right time for planting pumpkins.) And that was the end of that, and the beginning of the greatest pumpkin pie any of us ever tasted. Homegrown pumpkins make incomparable pie!
Anyway, there is one plant that comes to mind when I’m thinking bacon, and that is Brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts and bacon go together like pumpkin, and pie. Peaches and cream. Kale… and kale chips. You get the picture.
Brussels sprouts may be the easiest plant I’ve ever grown in the garden. I’m not even sure if I’ve done anything right or wrong in growing them, because they’ve always just grown, no matter what. I planted these plants last year, starting with transplants from the garden store. Each produced several stalks of sweet little sprouts, and we enjoyed them through summer and into the fall. There came a point when the Brussels stopped sprouting, but the plants never actually died back. I would have pulled them out but the root was so big and thick and established, it was hard to remove… and I am that lazy. So I left that plant — what was left of it — there to overwinter… and lo and behold, come spring, new stalks shot up. A bunch of them.
I cut off the stalks that looked a bit stubby and redundant and let the big, strong ones go… and now it’s time to harvest another round of Brussels sprouts. (You can actually begin harvesting them as soon as they appear. The tiny ones are lovely, little vegetable treasures, but prepare with care — they’re easy to overcook.)
Speaking of cooking, here are a few of our family’s favorite ways to enjoy Brussels sprouts (surprise: with bacon!). This recipe is very scalable, so please feel free to adjust quantities according to your preference. Make as many sprouts as you like. Add as much bacon as you like. Go hog-wild! Find Jen’s Brussels sprouts recipes & other garden-inspired musings on her website.
Garden-grown bacon would be the best thing ever. Crisp-tender, garden-grown, bacon-boosted Brussels sprouts: the next best thing!