Man and machine battle for sprouts

Frozen sprouts in Kirton Holme.
Frozen sprouts in Kirton Holme.

MILLIONS of sprouts have been harvested in the Boston area in a race against time for the Christmas dinner plate.

Thousands of tonnes of the tiny vegetables have been picked across Boston to ensure Britain doesn’t face a sprout shortage.

However, some local growers have been left unable to finish their harvest due to the hardened ground frost.

Roger Welberry, from CleanCut, based in Kirton Holme, told The Standard: “It’s absolutely terrible, the worst I’ve known it to be for 50 years.

“Some sprouts turned black with the frost and we just can’t harvest them like that as they wouldn’t be fit for the plate.”

For two days last week when temperatures temporarily improved, the company operated around the clock, chopping the sprout stalks by hand before thawing them in a store room.

“We had every available man and machine out there,” said Roger, “but we just don’t have enough store room for the whole crop, so a good 20-30 per cent will remain in the field until the weather improves.” He added: “My advice is get in early if you want sprouts for Christmas.”

However, one of the largest sprout growers in the country, TH Clements and Son Ltd, of Benington, say they are ‘ahead of the game’ with harvesting.

A spokesperson said: “Substantial amounts have already been lifted to satisfy the demand in the run up to Christmas.”

In a race against time, the company has had 11 machines in the fields working 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

To ensure its sprouts were ready for harvesting, TH Clements used measures such as covering some of the crop with fleece blankets to protect them from the ground frost.

Britain’s sprout-growing industry is worth around £54 million each year.