Do you gag at the thought of eating Brussels Sprouts? Then you may have been a victim of BSA (Brussels Sprouts Abuse) when you were served them years ago.

This week we highlight Brussels Sprouts on Produce Buzz. This time of year they are readily available and there’s something very satisfying about them when the weather turns cold. Also the colder weather tends to make them sweeter, so those that you will find on the grocery shelves now should be at their best for flavor.

And that might help you if you have always had a negative opinion of these little cabbages. They are not everyone’s favorite veggie. But we are certain that if everyone had tried them cooked right, they might very well be. Most people who don’t like them think their flavor is much too strong and bitter. They certainly can be bitter, but usually only if they are cooked too long or boiled down to a pulp. When they are roasted or sautéed you will get the opposite—a deliciously sweet taste—as the toasting activates the natural sugars in their leaves. Sprouts contain a substance called “sulphoraphane” which when they are overcooked begins to smell like rotten eggs and creates that bitter taste. This we proclaim as BSA and want to warn against it and help those who have been affected by it.

But first a little history of our veggie of the week. Why are they called “Brussels Sprouts?” Well the first records of them being grown in the western world were near Brussels, Belgium. Of course, the vegetable most likely existed well before they came to Belgium. Most experts believe they originated in and around the Mediterranean area thousands of years ago and were probably cultivated in Ancient Rome.  According to some food historians, the first mention of them was in the market regulations of Brussels in the 13th Century. But nothing else said of them has survived until two hundred years later when they begin to show up in accounts of royal French wedding celebrations. Gracing a royal table was certainly good for their rise in popularity. However, their real rise to fame didn't occur until a few hundred years later. Brussels Sprouts became very popular in England in the 19th Century and are still today one of the primary dishes served on British tables at Christmas time. But their humble origins in the fields outside of Brussels was never lost as the name stuck and continues to remind us of that. 

It was the French who cemented our association of the veggie to Brussels. The actual French word for them translates to “cabbage of Brussels,” and we can see why. They look like little cabbages. And they are closely related. Their little leaves peel off revealing layer after layer of them just like their bigger cousins. The sprouts grow on a long stalk that can get as tall as four feet. This feature was bred into the plants over time to make the production more efficient.

 There are over 100 varieties of Brussels Sprouts, but most consumers would be hard pressed to tell the difference between them in taste or appearance. Except for the purple varieties, which are great for balancing out the color on a plate for visual excitement at your next dinner party.

Brussels Sprouts are usually cooked and can be boiled, steamed, roasted, sautéed or grilled. As long as they are not overcooked and prepared with the right seasoning you will have a flavorful and delicious accompaniment to any meal. But they can also be eaten raw and are especially good shaved in a slaw or salad. Shred them up in a big bowl, add some Parmigiano cheese and some roasted chicken breast and you will have a meal all too itself.

These cancer fighting sprouts contain a hefty amount of Vitamins, A, C and K. They also are a great source of B Vitamins, which can help you deal with stress and anxiety. The high amount of dietary fiber they provide has been proven to ward off colon and stomach cancers. That same substance that can give them a bitter taste, sulphoraphane, also is a big part of their health benefit. It is a phytochemical that is believed to be a big cancer fighter. But again, if they are overcooked this substance gets cooked out, especially when boiled. Less so if they are roasted or sautéed.

So we hope that you are not one of those people subjected at an early age to the improper cooking of Brussels Sprouts, or BSA. If so, you may have been avoiding them and missing one of the greatest taste in the vegetable kingdom. We encourage you to try them again, with a great recipe like one of these we recommend below. It’s one of the best times of the year to try again to love these tasty little cabbages!

16 Brussels Sprouts Recipes That Website Pure Wow Says Will Change Your Life
A Simple Recipe With Another Great Health Superstar Food – Garlic
To Really Guarantee No Bitterness, A recipe with Honey and Balsamic Vinegar
The Maven of Domesticity Proves Brussels Sprouts Are Versatile
Visit the Ocean Mists Farms Web Page - Grower of Brussels Sprouts

More and more people are discovering the joy of Brussels Sprouts. But still many can't forget the abuse of eating badly cooked ones!


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