An Ormskirk farmer's passion for sprouts and a recipe for your leftover sprouts

PUBLISHED: 00:16 23 December 2010 | UPDATED: 18:20 20 February 2013

John Molyneux

John Molyneux

Love them or loathe them, there's every chance the ones on your Christmas dinner plate are from Ormskirk. Emma Mayoh reports

A sprout is not just for Christmas, its for life, insists Ormskirk farmer Chris Molyneux. Theres so much in them that is good for you. People should eat them as much as they can.

Those who spend much of their Christmas dinner moving the small green vegetable around their plates may not share the 46-year-old farmers enthusiasm. But you cannot accuse him of not practising what he preaches. Most days he will enjoy a healthy portion of almost 20 sprouts - including some that he eats raw out in the fields.

Chances are that the Brussels sprouts on your plate this Christmas Day will have come from the 270 acres at his farm in Ormskirk. Unlike Father Christmas, Chris works pretty much year round to ensure millions of households get the traditional festive veg in time for December 25th. He grows them for much of the year and harvests them from August to March. In that time, more than 1,900 tonnes will leave Asmall House Farm with 20 per cent of them being plucked from the fields in the 14 days before Christmas.

John credits the great Lancashire weather and the quality of the soil for being able to grow the tasty sprouts in such abundance.

There are sprouts everywhere, you cant move for them, said Chris. We normally have between 30 and 40 people working here in the year but at Christmas well have a least 50. We work 24 hours a day to keep up with the demand. Its absolutely manic.

I reckon were getting on for providing around 20 million portions. Thats a lot of sprouts. The kids must think Im Scrooge because I always say I hate Christmas. But youve just got to get on with it. It would be nice of course, though, if it was spread across November and January too.

The Molyneux family have farmed from the same site in Ormskirk since 1850 and have grown sprouts for more than 100 years. They started off with 40 acres but now Chris, as well as his dad, John, his uncle, Gerrard, cousins James and Michael, sister Charlotte and his two daughters Corinne, 12, and Morag, 11, farm around 750 acres of land. They grow everything from spring greens to brassicas, including red kale, as well as around 15 varieties of sprouts. It was sprouts that Chris first started picking as an eight-year-old on the farm.

He remembered: I think it was probably more about getting me out of the house than anything but I loved it. I would go out on the sprout picking machine with my aunty and I got the princely sum of 50 pence for the work. It was great.

The Molyneuxs sprouts supply everyone from Booths and Morrisons to Covent Garden and Spitalfields markets in London as well as lots of local markets and farm shops.

While some people might not be that keen on eating them, Chris cannot praise them enough and he keeps a keen eye on research about the benefits of them.

He said: They are extremely good for you. Theyre packed with things like vitamin C, but theyre also full of enzymes that are believed to help prevent cancer. Its that old adage that the things that dont taste good are the best for you. But I think they are really tasty.

A lot of people dont eat them because they didnt like sprouts when they were children. But they are different now and the varieties are a lot sweeter. Make sure you get them on the stalk and they taste great. People need to try them again if they dont think they like them. Theyll be converted.

Sprout and Squeak

Serves 4


800g potatoes, peeled and diced

2 medium-sized leeks, trimmed and thinly sliced

25g butter

400g leftover cooked Brussels sprouts, sliced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp olive oil


Bring a pan of lightly salted water to the boil and cook the potatoes for 10 minutes. Add the sliced leeks to the pan and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Drain thoroughly, then roughly mash with the butter, leftover sprouts and seasoning.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the mixture over a medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Serve hot as an accompaniment to cooked meat or with a poached egg as a light meal.

Chris top tip for a great sprout meal

I think sprouts are quite sweet and a good veg in their own right, dont get carried away with trimming them and crossing them before you cook them. Just trim the bottom. Chuck them straight in the pan and dont cook them for too long, they taste great when theyre crunchy.

For people who dont like sprouts, stir fry them with leeks and with some butter not margarine and then put some white wine in with them. Its absolutely delicious.

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