Brussels sprouts are a member of the brassica family, resembling a miniature cabbage. This is a vegetable that people either love or hate, with few remaining neutral in the face of its distinctive flavor and odor. Most people severely overcook this vegetable, then attempt to bury their mistake in thick creamy sauces.
Brussels sprouts were first cultivated in Belgium, and are therefore named after its capital, Brussels.
Brussels sprouts grow on long thick stalks, from which they must be picked off, usually by hand. In the UK, they are a traditional winter vegetable, and are often eaten boiled with a roast dinner. They can also be stir fried or made into soup.
According to a survey in 2002, Brussels sprouts are Britain's most hated vegetable. Brussels sprout aficionados attribute the hatred of the sprouts to overcooking, pointing out that if this is avoided, the vegetable possesses a delicious, delicate flavour.
Preparation and Cooking
Slice off the base of the stem and remove the outer layer or two of leaves, which may have become battered during transport and storage, and wash the bud well. Brussels sprouts are a small vegetable, so they are generally cooked whole. It's wise to cut a small cross in the base to let the water in and let the sprout cook evenly. Alternatively, they can be halved. Overcooking is a common problem with brussels sprouts, it will make them soggy and discoloured, and release the strong 'cabbagy' odour of all brassicas. Whole brussels sprouts have a cooking time from 4 minutes to blanch to 10 minutes to cook large sprouts thoroughly. It's best to taste test the sprouts during cooking to see whether they have the desired tenderness. Steaming time ranges from 8 to 15 minutes. When done, the Brussels sprouts should be bright green.
Simple serving suggestions include sprinkling the sprouts with lemon juice, salt, fresh nutmeg, or grated cheese, possibly with a light coating of butter or olive oil.
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Brussels sprouts are a typical winter vegetable. Frost is generally considered to improve their flavor, which means, that though they are available from October or earlier, the real season starts in November.