Brussels sprout or miniature cabbage is not a familiar vegetable in Kerala. However, its anticarcinogenic properties made it a popular culinary item in Europe where its cultivation spread long years back from its native place Brussels, Belgium. The edible buds contain vitamins C and K and folic acid too.
“It has high potential as a vegetable crop and the soil and climatic conditions in the Marayur-Kanthallur belt are best suited for its natural growth,” says S. Palanithurai, a traditional cabbage farmer here, in whose 1.5-acre farm Brussels sprouts are now ripe for harvesting.
Mr. Palanithurai, who settled down in Kanthallur nearly 20 years back from Vattvada, has cultivated maize and beans, but at a very low level at his farm in Vettakarankovil. It is Brussels sprout, also known as kalaicose or tree cabbage, that makes his farm different.
Mr. Palanithurai says that it is the seed selection that needed extra care. “I use only bio-manure and there will be very limited pesticide use,” he says.
His farm is close to forests and wild elephant attack is common there.
He spends the nights in a shed at the farm scaring away elephants by bursting crackers.
He bought Brussels sprout seeds from Bangalore where his daughter studies. The edible buds in the form of a small cabbage grow along the side of the long thick leave branches.
There is no demand for the produce in Kerala. However, Mr. Palanithurai says, even if it is sold at a very low price, it is profitable as it ensures harvesting throughout the year. “The problem is that unlike other vegetable crops, Brussels sprout needs over six months for its first harvest. But, after that there will be three to ten buds in every harvest,” he says.
An official of the Vegetable and Fruits Promotion Council Keralam says that the crop is not put for auction as there is no demand from vegetable traders here.
However, visitors in search of the crop make a beeline for Mr. Palanithurai’s farm.