Saturday, December 8, 2012

Brussels Sprouts: Poor Misunderstood Mini-Cabbages

Brussels sprouts, those poor, little, smelly, misunderstood mini cabbages. Why are they hated so? They are part of a prodigious family of vegetables from the cabbage patch including kale, broccoli, collard greens, radishes, cauliflower, kholrabi, mustard greens, turnips and more. It seems every new generation of kids is forced to eat them at some point during their childhood, seemingly as a form of punishment. 

There is even a a bestselling English Christmas story, The Smelly Sprout by Allan Plenderleith, about a Brussels sprout who is tossed out in the snow on Christmas day, and then rejected by a Christmas tree, a snowman, and a fox, before finding a home for the holiday.

If you've ever wondered whether this vegetable shares its name with Brussels, Belgium by chance or by design, it is no coincidence. While it is believed they first made  an appearance  in our  diet during  Roman times,  by the late  16th century
they were being cultivated in large quantities in Belgium, hence their name. By the 1800s they were introduced in the U.S. The central coast of California provides the majority of  the 70 million pounds of annual domestic production during the June through January season. Britain's production is about six times that amount. Brussels sprouts are also exported to Canada where they are more popular than they are here at home.

Growing up I loved vegetables with only a few exceptions. I particularly was not a fan of Brussels sprouts, lima beans or parsnips. When I'd see Brussel sprouts on the dinner table as a kid I'd scrunch my nose. They were always served boiled or steamed and were mushy. They had little flavor other than a tinge of bitterness, sorry mom. As an adult I'd scrunch my nose at them in the grocery store as well. And then one day while 'chasing squirrels on the webbernet' I came across a recipe for Brussels sprouts with the most delectable sounding description - "like vegetable baklava" - I just had to give them one more chance. They are now one of my ABSOLUTE favorite vegetables, and even two of my three kids eat them, willingly.

So what is the secret to my new found love? Roasting them! I cut them in half, lay them face up in a baking pan, drizzle them in olive oil or melted butter, and coat them in whatever spices suit my mood, whether it be garlic, salt and pepper, or a creole seasoning (Tony Chachere's is my favorite). Then I roast them at 425 for 20-25 minutes. The outer shell becomes crunchy, and they melt in your mouth, just like baklava. Tip - shave just the slightest bit off the outside on opposite sides before halving the sprouts and they will lay nice and flat in your pan without rolling to the sides.

Now, if only I can find a way to stop 'hatin' on the poor misunderstood parsnip! Anyone have a great recipe?


  1. A friend brought a Brussel Sprout salad to our book club gathering today. It was so good and made me think of your post.

    1. Oh, share the recipe, share the recipe!!!

  2. He he! The only way I could ingest brussies when I was served them as a lad was to drown them in tomato sauce.  

    Now about that story book, you've left me wondering just where did a smelly sprout find a home in the end...