These delicious mini cabbages lost their bitter quality in the 90’s and are such a seasonal treat! They add a sweet crunch to raw salads, and roast up to crispy, buttery, nutty perfection.
Flavor profile: Brussels sprouts have a rich, nutty, savory flavor similar to broccoli or cabbage. You can bring out its sweetness when eaten raw, and when roasted it develops even more complex nutty flavors with a soft buttery texture on the inside and crispy leaves on the outside similar to kale chips. Both purple and green varieties exist.
Uses: Brussels are incredibly versatile and can be enjoyed both raw and cooked. Roast them or sauté them either whole or halved as a side dish, winter salad, tossed with pasta, baked into a frittata, or simply drizzled with your favorite dip.
Pairs with: Garlic, nuts, beans, aioli, cheese, rice, pasta, eggs, meats, and more
Storage: Brussels sprouts can store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week or two. Just like cabbage, if you’ve left your Brussels in the fridge a little too long and they’re looking rough, you can usually just peel a couple layers of leaves off to reveal clean Brussels sprouts within.
Nutrients: Brussels sprouts are super nutritious with particularly high levels of vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B-6, potassium, and omega-3 fatty acids.
History: Many of us grew up hearing that Brussels sprouts were bitter, and that story was true up until the 1990’s when a Dutch plant breeder isolated the compounds responsible for bitterness. This inspired seed breeders to go through dozens of heirloom varieties looking for plants that had low levels of those compounds. They cross-bred those non-bitter plants back into the high-yielding varieties that were being grown commercially and developed the rich and delicious Brussels sprouts that we know today.
Brussels sprouts originated in Europe and became particularly popular in Brussels, Belgium in the 1500’s when they got their name. From the ancestral Brassica from which Brussels sprouts, cabbage, radishes, broccoli and other Brassicas were bred, Brussels sprouts are the result of selecting for increasingly large lateral buds, whereas cabbage is the result of selecting for an increasingly large terminal bud, which is why Brussels sprouts grow up the stalk of the plant.
Why it's a great crop: To be honest, Brussels sprouts are one of the more difficult crops to grow organically. Each stalk has dozens of tightly packed Brussels sprout buds, which aphids seem to think are a hotel made just for them to stay cozy through the winter. Moreover, they spend a much longer amount of time in the field before they mature in the fall compared to other crops, leaving many months for pest pressure to build and decrease the final yield. Upon harvest, depending on the pest pressure, Brussels sprouts must be cleaned individually, each one a miniature cabbage that must be tidied, making them incredibly labor intensive. While Brussels sprouts may not be an easy crop to grow, they certainly are a special seasonal treat we get to eat, something to be very grateful for each year.