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Brussels sprouts

Brassica oleracea, Gemmifera group syn var gemmifera

Photo courtesy of Horticulture New Zealand


There aren’t many vegetables that awaken such strong feelings in people as the Brussels sprout. Regularly topping ‘most hated vegetable’ lists, a level of vitriol is directed at it that no other vegetable receives. Yet devotees claim that, cooked correctly, they are a far cry from the soggy, overcooked blobs scorned by so many.

The Brussels sprout looks like, and essentially is, a miniature cabbage. The plant grows many head buds around a single stem, with a leafy growth on top. Correctly cooked, they have a sweet, fresh flavour.

Choose firm, bright green sprouts . Expect to pull a few leaves off the outside, but no more than the outer layer. Leave behind any with yellowing leaves or soft spots. Store your sprouts in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper of your fridge.

Brussels sprouts are a good source of iron, potassium, fibre, and vitamins A and C.



Nobody is quite sure of the Brussels sprout’s origins. Some believe they originated in China, while others hold that is an entirely Belgian cultivation. Forerunners were eaten by the Romans, but the sprouts that we know today probably date from about the 13th century. They didn’t arrive in France and Britain, where they remain popular, until the end of the 18th century.


The standard method of cooking Brussels sprouts is to boil them. A lot of cooks still advocate cutting a cross in the base, but many others argue that this is what makes them go soggy and is unnecessary. Boil only until they feel just tender when prodded with a knife.

They can also be braised; briefly sauté and add a small amount of water or stock, and simmer just until the liquid has evaporated.

Small sprouts can be shredded and served raw in a salad.


When they release that sulphurous odour all too commonly associated with Brussels sprouts, they’re overcooked. Overcooking releases a sulphur-containing compound in the sprout, which causes the ‘old feet’ smell.

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