Seasonal Produce Spotlight: Brussels Sprouts

The brussels sprout is an extremely under-appreciated vegetable in my book. I had never even had it until a few years ago (I’m nearly 50 years old!) because all I knew growing up was that it was to be avoided. It was the stuff that threats were made of – “You’d better behave, or we’ll have brussels sprouts for dinner.” I didn’t even know what they were, and I’m fairly sure that my mother has never cooked them. 

As I started incorporating more fresh vegetables into my diet, I decided to get more adventurous and brussels sprouts entered the picture. Thank goodness! They’re in season for most of the United States during the fall and winter, so I associate them with cozy dinners that warm me up from the inside out when it’s cold outside. 

As part of the cabbage family, I think this misunderstood vegetable gets some of its negative reputation because of how bitter it can be. It’s also thought of as a slimy, smelly, mushy blob that’s in no way appealing to think of eating. If that’s what you think of when it comes to brussels sprouts, what you were eating was definitely not prepared correctly. When it’s cooked properly, you don’t even notice the bitterness because you’re focusing on the tremendous flavor they offer that’s different than many of the other vegetables that we eat. They’re also not slimy, mushy or smelly. 

The key to eating brussels sprouts is that they should be fresh. The fresher they are, the better the flavor1. Getting them at your local farmer’s market is ideal because you know that they’re going to be extremely fresh. If you buy them from the grocery store, be sure to eat within a couple of days of buying them. This is even true with the ones bought locally. Eat them as soon as possible! 

While you can buy brussels sprouts frozen or can freeze them yourself, I personally wouldn’t recommend it. In my experience, that’s where they can tend to get mushy, and mushy is not what I want from my brussels sprouts. That’s why they’re best enjoyed in abundance while they’re in season. 

Besides their great taste, brussels sprouts are incredibly nutritious. According to the University of Illinois Extension’s Watch Your Garden grow series, half a cup cooked offers 2 grams of protein, 7 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber (so 5 net carbs), 247 mg of potassium, 48 mg of Vitamin C, 47 mcg of folate and 561 IU of Vitamin A1.  

An additional benefit is that they provide a very affordable side dish or base for a main meal. You can usually buy them for around $2.50/lb, and a pound will easily serve an entire family. 

Here are a couple of recipes for how to fix brussels sprouts the “right way.” Trust me, if you’ve had a bad experience with them in the past, it’s time to put that behind you. If you’re missing out on brussels sprouts, you’re truly missing out on one of nature’s delicacies. 

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