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What are Brussels sprouts, and where did they originate?
- This vegetable is part of the cruciferous family, including broccoli, cauliflower, kale, radishes, watercress, collard greens, and cabbage.
- They are in the Gemmnifera group, which means bud producing.
- They grow in buds on a large thick stalk.
- They are essentially mini cabbages.
- Other vegetables resembling Brussels sprouts were found in ancient Rome, but the Brussels sprouts that we know and love today didn’t exist until the 5th century in northern Europe.
- They became popularized and cultivated in the 13th century near Brussels, Belgium, where their name is derived.
- They spread in popularity throughout northern Europe in the 16th century.
- Production in the United States started in the 18th century when the French brought them to Louisiana in the 1920s.
- Production and planting of this vegetable started in California in the 1940s.
When do Brussels sprouts come into season?
- Brussels sprouts are harvested from September through March, so they are considered more of a winter vegetable.
- They typically grow at 45-75 degrees F and 7-24 degrees C.
Are Brussels sprouts good for you?
- Brussels sprouts are super healthy for you as they contain a fantastic amount of antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients.
- They are comprised of 86% water, 9% carbohydrates, and 3% protein and have little to no fat.
- Brussels sprouts contain:
- Vitamin C: This vitamin acts like an antioxidant that helps build your body’s overall immunity by helping to build strengthening proteins, and collagen, promoting iron absorption, and repairing and growing necessary tissue.
- Vitamin K: This vitamin helps promote bone growth and aids in blood coagulation (which is essential to stop wounds from excessively bleeding).
- Antioxidants: These compounds help prevent cell damage and help reduce inflammation.
- High in Fiber: Helps regulate and keep blood sugar levels low while promoting a healthy gut.
- Alpha-linolenic Acid: This type of Omega 3- is a fatty acid only found in plants. It promotes overall health in your immune system by supporting your brain, heart, and lungs.
Can you eat Brussels sprouts raw?
- Yes, all parts of Brussels sprouts are edible raw and cooked.
- However, some people find them bitter and hard to digest when eaten raw.
- They can cause people to be gaseous and feel a bit bloated.
- This gaseousness and bloating are caused by a fiber called raffinose which is hard to digest.
- This fiber can only be broken down in the large intestine by bacteria.
- When the large intestine does break down this fiber, it produces various gasses such as carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane.
Why are Brussels sprouts sometimes bitter?
- Brussels sprouts contain a chemical compound known as glucosinolate that gives them a bitter taste to humans.
- However, in the 1990s, a Dutch scientist, Hans van Doorn, identified this bitterness and worked with a seed company to help produce Brussels sprouts with lower glucosinolate levels. So, the edible buds have increasingly become less bitter over the years.
- If you find Brussels sprouts too bitter to eat raw, cooking them helps reduce the bitterness.
- When you cook them, whether by blanching, sautéing, steaming, roasting, or baking, always add salt to them, as this helps cook the vegetables from the inside out and brings out the natural sweetness.
Here is how to clean Brussels sprouts
- Often, the outer layer of these edible buds can be dirty or discolored.
- The best way to clean them is to remove a couple of layers of the outer leaves and lob off the bud end.
How long do Brussels sprouts last in the refrigerator?
- Whole vegetables tend to last longer than cut vegetables because less oxygen permeates them when they are not broken down.
- So, keeping them whole can prolong their life in the refrigerator.
- With this being said, I think Brussels sprouts are their best when they are still firm and vibrant, generally 5-6 days in the refrigerator after purchase or harvest.
Here is how you cut and cook Brussels sprouts.
- The best way to cut Brussels sprouts is by slicing off the bud end and then cutting them in half.
- This keeps most leaves intact and makes the vegetables easier to eat and cook.
- If you are eating them raw, thinly slicing them is best.
- Brussels sprouts can be eaten blanched, sautéed, steamed, baked, or roasted (make sure you do so with a high-quality kosher salt).
Tips and tricks for cooking success
- The key to properly cooking this vegetable is not to overcook it. Mushy Brussels sprouts are not appealing, and again, don’t forget to add salt, as this brings out the vegetable’s natural sweetness.
- If you are eating raw:
- Thinly slice the vegetable and treat it like you would a thinly sliced cabbage. Add oils, vinegar, and a sweet component, and make a salad or coleslaw.
- If you are blanching:
- You want to cook these buds until they are tender but hold a solid crunch. After taking the Brussels sprouts out of the boiling water, you want to immediately submerge them in an ice bath or run them under cold water to stop the cooking process. This will help maintain the vibrancy of the Brussels sprouts.
- If you are sautéing:
- I like to blanch my Brussels sprouts first to help tenderize them and keep their natural green vibrancy. Then, once they have cooled, I add them to a smoking hot pan with oil and brown the sides with or without other vegetables like onion and garlic to get them extra crispy.
- If you are steaming:
- Make sure you add salt to your water and don’t allow the sprouts to overcook. Remove them from the steam when tender, but still hold a nice, structured body.
- If you are baking or roasting:
- Make sure to coat the vegetable with oil and salt. The oil will help create a nice glaze on the Brussels and help give them a crispy exterior, while the salt will bring out their natural sweetness and help cook them from the inside out. Again, take them out of the oven while they still have crunch and before they turn completely soft.