Vege Profile: Brussels Sprouts

I met a man from Brussels. 6 foot 4, full of muscles. I said do you speak my language? He just smiled and gave me an adorable stalk of mini cabbages. What a gift!

Another vegetable that has been done dirty over the years. You may have been handed a plate of grey, overboiled Brussel sprouts at the dinner table, took one look and handed them to the next person. This is not the sprout’s fault! If sprouts are on the menu I will always order them, because you know the chef has had to work extra hard to make it undeniably delicious. Honey soy roasted Brussel sprouts finished with coriander and chilli are a particular favourite of mine.

Their increase in popularity in the last 30 years isn’t just because of industrious chefs. In the 1990s, Dutch scientist Hans Van Doom (Great name) identified the chemicals that make Brussels sprouts bitter: sinigrin and progoitrin. This enabled Dutch seed companies to cross breed low-bitterness varieties with modern high-yield varieties, increasing the popularity of the vegetable.

Alongside user error, there’s another genetic reason why you don’t like them, similar to coriander. Gene TAS2R38 controls whether we taste the chemical responsible for the taste of bitterness, PTC. Although the gene was discovered in the 1930’s, the specific gene wasn’t identified until 2003.

If you’re looking for the best result, par boil your sprouts after scoring the stalk (A small cut at the base) in salted water for 5 minutes. Drain, then roast in oil and with any flavour you choose. The boiling also makes them more easily digested. If you smell sulphur, you’ve gone too far!

Brussel sprouts came from the Mediterranean, the origin of many wild cabbage species. The name came about much later, from the popularity of the crop in Brussels, around the 16th century.

This cool-weather member of the Cole family grows it’s sprouts on straight stalks that reach up to 50cm high. The sprout itself will improve in flavour with exposure to a few frosts.

One cup of Brussel sprouts will provide 195% of your daily vitamin K needs, and 125% of your vitamin C! It also contains folate, fiber, and essential minerals. Brussels sprouts contain zeaxanthin, an antioxidant that’s considered important to eye health and cell integrity.

To store: Store them unwashed in a closed bag in the veggie bin for 1-2 days.

To prep: Pare off the tough bottom part of the sprout stem. Slit a cross about ½ cm into the base of the brussel sprout. This help them cook evenly.

To freeze: Put the sprouts in a pot of boiling water, and boil for exactly 4 minutes. Using a large slotted spoon, scoop out the sprouts and place them directly in an ice water bath. Allow the sprouts to sit in the ice bath for 4 minutes. Drain in a colander, shake any excess water and pour the sprouts on a towel to dry. Place in a freezer bag and store in the freezer up to 10 months

Serving suggestions:

*Stir fry Sprouts with sesame, kale and spring onions 

*Mashed parsnip & sprouts colcannon

*Sprouts with sticky shallots and garlic 

*Roasted Brussels Sprouts with bacon and chestnuts

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