Real Food Encyclopedia | Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are ready for their close-up. Like quiche, sparkling water and Fiats, many in the US have taken a bit of time to warm to this European favorite. But Brussels sprouts are gaining on kale as the go-to menu darling.
Brussels sprouts are thought to have originated in Rome, but they really hit their stride in Belgium where they became popular as a vegetable crop in the 16th century. It was there that Brussels sprouts were tagged with the name they still carry today. French settlers brought Brussels sprouts to Louisiana around 1800 and commercial production began there in 1925. In the 1940s Brussels sprout production moved to the central coast of California as part of the growing frozen food industry.
The little buds, which resemble baby cabbages, are becoming much-loved for their cute shape, approachable flavor and versatility in recipes. Sliced thinly, they are fresh, light and crunchy in a salad. Roasted until they’re nearly coal-colored, they’re soft, sweet and earthy.
Fun Facts about Brussels Sprouts:
- Although the vegetable is commonly called “Brussel sprouts,” dropping the “s” fails to reflect the plant’s Belgian history.
- Brussels sprouts’ high levels of Vitamin K can interfere with some blood thinners. Eaters using anti-coagulants should monitor their consumption of the vegetable.
- Although growing in popularity, Brussels sprouts are still the most hated vegetable in the United States.
- All parts of the Brussels sprout plant is edible, including the leaves, which can serve as a substitute for cabbage in any recipe.
What to Look for When Buying Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are sold on and off the stalk. When purchasing, look for compact heads with no sign of dulling or wilting. Sprouts should be bright green. Look for signs of insect damage and avoid sprouts with pinholes that can be a sign that pests, such as aphids, have set up home in the plant.
Sustainability of Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are subject to a number of disease and infestation issues in the field. Commercially grown fields are typically limed prior to planting to prevent club root disease. Fields are often fumigated with metam-sodium or 1,3-dichloropropene to control nematodes, and to provide additional suppression of club root. Crop rotation and organic inputs are alternative methods of disease and insect suppression that have also proven successful.
Brussels Sprouts Seasonality
Although Brussels sprouts are grown in California from June-December, they are generally considered a cool weather crop, popping up in farmers markets in the fall. They can withstand a bit of frost but will yellow and open in warm temperatures.
Brussels Sprouts and Geography
The majority of our Brussels sprouts are grown in California, particularly the central coastal region, where the cool sea air creates ideal temperatures for the chill-loving vegetable.
Eating Brussels Sprouts
Storing Fresh Brussels Sprouts
Their affinity for cool temperatures make Brussels sprouts good keepers. They will last in the refrigerator for about two weeks when stored on the stalk and about half that if separated from it. To freeze sprouts, blanch by dipping briefly in a pot of boiling water, shock in cold water, pat dry and freeze for up to a year.
Cooking with Brussels Sprouts
Be careful not to overcook Brussels sprouts. Too long on the stove and the sprouts will release foul smelling sulfur compounds.
Brussels sprouts are delicious any way you fix them. Try them raw by slicing thinly and toss in salads. For a quick sauté, add them to your favorite stir-fry or give them a quick turn in the pan with crisp bacon or pancetta. Brussels sprouts also steam very easily. Brussel sprouts are great grilled; if you fire up your cooker in the cooler months — when you’ll find them at the market — throw some on. Roasted Brussels sprouts are probably the crowd favorite, thanks to the sweet, caramelized edges that sprouts get when roasted.
And don’t forget the leaves, which are edible and also delicious!
Brussels Sprouts Nutrition
Brussels sprouts are good for you! They are high in Vitamin C and Vitamin K, which is valued for its anti-inflammatory properties. They are a very good source of nutrients including folate, manganese, Vitamin B6, dietary fiber, choline, copper, Vitamin B1, potassium, phosphorus, and omega-3 fatty acids. They are also believed to reduce cancer risk.
Brussels sprouts pack a lot of oomph for their asking price. They are listed in the Environmental Working Group’s “Good Food on a Tight Budget” round up of affordable foods that have a high nutritional value.