Crop sprouting up in bumper numbers

The Oxford Times: Farmer Charles Bennett pulls up sprouts at Sandy Lane Farm in Thame. Pictures: OX64278 Cliff Hide Buy this photo » Farmer Charles Bennett pulls up sprouts at Sandy Lane Farm in Thame. Pictures: OX64278 Cliff Hide

WHILE some parts of the country are seeing their Brussels sprout harvest decimated by a feathered foe, Oxfordshire has a bumper crop of brassicas in time for Christmas.

Last year, sprout lovers found their favourite festive vegetable in short supply after rain and snow saw the yield plummet to its lowest in 12 years.

And this year in Lincolnshire, the country’s main source of sprouts experienced a problem with wood pigeons, whose numbers have soared due to environmental wildlife schemes.

Worried farmers are due to discuss the matter at the annual Brassica Growers’ Association conference next month.

But Les Britten, vegetable manager at Millets Farm in Frilford, near Abingdon, said Oxfordshire sprout lovers can look forward to filling their boots this Christmas.

He added: “We had lovely weather in July, August and September which means a good length of stalk and size of sprouts and if anything there has been less bird damage here than usual.

“I think the mild autumn has meant lots of berries have been available for the birds so they have stayed away from our sprouts. The result is we have a hectare of sprouts at Millets – about 13,000 sticks with a kilo and a half of lovely sprouts on each.”

It’s estimated that as much as 80 per cent of total British sprout sales take place in the two-week Christmas and New Year period and at the organic Sandy Lane Farm in Tiddington, Thame, this week, customers were queuing up to buy theirs.

Farmer Charles Bennett said: “It’s been a good year and the sprouts are going very well.

“We have about 300-400 kilos and I’m sure they will all sell.”

FACTFILE

  • SPROUTS contain high levels of vitamins A and C, folic acid and dietary fibre, and help protect against colon and stomach cancer.
  • Half a pound of sprouts contains just 80 calories.
  • Brussels sprouts are part of the Brassica family which also includes cabbages, broccoli and kale.
  • The vegetable was named after the Belgian capital of Brussels after becoming popular in the city in the 16th century.
  • Captain Cook made his crew eat sprouts to combat scurvy.

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