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Brussels Sprouts

January 2000

"The Thousand Headed Cabbage Plant!"

This one may not be at the top of everyone's list, but once you get over your hang ups form those childhood memories of being forced to eat your veggies Brussels Sprouts come out on top with flavor & nutrition!

First of all what are they? Have you ever seen a Brussels sprouts plant? It looks like a weird antennae with buds and leaves growing right off of it. Brussels sprouts are a member of the cabbage family and are cultivated like cabbage.   The plant was first developed in Belgium (Brussels being the capital) and made its way to France, and then England. It finally made its way to Louisiana along with the French settlers.

There is controversy over whether it was developed in the 16th or 18th century, but who cares?  They've been around long enough and are here to stay!

Availability: Year round but are best October through February.


What to look for: Well colored (light green or a darker shade of green color) firm compact sprouts. The ideal Brussels Sprout is not less than an inch in diameter and no longer than 2 ¾ inches.

Now I don't expect you to go shopping with a ruler or a ring sizer, but this gives you an idea of the approximate size that will pack the most nutrients and of course flavor!

What to Avoid: sprouts that have been trimmed down too far or starting to yellow. Also look for black spots on the tips of the leaves or larger sprouts that have burst ( a split in them) open or are puffy and light in weight. All are signs of sprouts that have been around too long or are better suited for cattle feed.

Off season

Brussels Sprouts in the warmer months will tend to be less compact and
lighter in weight. 

Brussels Sprouts are a member of the "cruciferae" family. A Latin word for crucifix. All members of this family have a flower that is shaped like a cross, therefore called cruciferae or cruciferus. Mustard is the matriarch and includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, horseradish, watercress just to name a few.

They were described centuries ago as a cabbage bearing a thousand heads. Sounds kind of scary doesn't it? Not when you consider the size.

They are grown along the California coast in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties where the weather is usually cool and foggy. 90% of all commercial production for the entire U.S. is from this area.

Brussels Sprouts will keep in the refrigerator for 3-5 days before beginning to decay. Do not wash them until you are ready to use them. It is suggested to soak them in a bowl of water for about 10 or 15 minutes to release any insects that may be hiding under the leaves.

Preparation tips 

Trim any excess or loose wilted yellowing leaves off. Trim the stem end with a sharp knife, but just shave it. The green outer leaves carry most of the nutrients and you don't want to trim them away. Some folks like to cut an "X" in the stem end to decrease cooking time. I however prefer not to as it takes away the crispness of the sprout and I like 'em cooked but still mildly crunchy.

Start a little water boiling in a pot (about an inch or two). This will minimize the chemical interactions that cause them to develop a strong flavor. Drop 3-4 crushed garlic cloves into the boil, place the steamer on top and add Brussels Sprouts. Cover and steam for 1-2 minutes. Now turn on the overhead fan. Why? you may ask. Because you are going to remove the lid for about 15 seconds and let off some steam! This is to release the sulphurous compounds that build up during cooking and the stinky smell will enter into you neighbors yard and not your house! Maybe their dog will stop barking all the time after he gets a whiff. This is called the two-minute stink release. Now put the lid back on and cook for another 6-10 minutes and remove.

 Now you can do two things. You can either place them under cold running water to stop the cooking in its tracks or you can sprinkle some of your favorite flavored vinegar or balsamic on them while they are still steaming.

You can also add butter and pepper. Olive oil and cayenne.  Herbs of your choice. Lemon juice. Here's a great cooking tip that will tantalize your taste buds! Use cooked Brussels Sprouts on a shish kebab in between chunks of swordfish steak lemon wedges and other veggies of your choice. Brush with a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice and fresh dill. MMMMMMMM-MMMMMM-MMMMMMM!

Another thing you can do if you decide to stop the cooking with cold water is to cut them in half-lengthwise and sauté with olive oil and slivered almonds or boiled chestnuts.


continued >

Okay so you had a great meal that included some really good Brussels sprouts. Now you have some left over.   Let them thoroughly cool and place them in an airtight container in the fridge. Cold sprouts can be added to tossed salads, cut in half or in quarters and added to pasta salads or used as a pizza topping. Take them to work with you and eat them for a snack with dip or as part of your lunch. This is where the Beano comes in handy.

I've eaten smaller sprouts raw before. I've even had them pickled! 


In this area, Brussels Sprouts are a powerhouse!   With 85mg of Vitamin C., That's 142% of the Recommended daily Allowance. Vitamin C is an antioxidant which is able to neutralize free radicals that steal electrons from your body's healthy molecules to balance themselves, and in the process, they can harm a cell's membrane and genetic material.

Antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin C offer free radicals their own electrons and so save cells from oxidative damage. Now I'm no scientist, this is clear simple high school biology.

Vitamin C is also good for enabling wounds to heal and for the body to withstand injury and infection.

It is essential for forming collagen, part of the body's defense and repair system. It is found in the walls of arteries and veins, bones and cartilage, gums and other tissues.

Vitamin C also transforms dietary iron into forms that are more easily absorbed by the body. When other tissues need it, it unlocks iron from the blood.

Vitamin C converts folic acid into a form that is easier for the body to absorb. It converts amino acids into transmitters for the nervous system. 

I would say that 142% of the USRDA of this stuff is a happening thing on my list!

Other nutrients in Brussels Sprouts include 10% of Vitamin B6 in men and 13% in women. B6 is good for making amino acids, the building blocks of protein. When protein is no longer needed for growth or repair, B6 lets protein be used a source of energy.  It is also necessary to produce antibodies and hormones and helps make red blood cells. It is a part of over 50 enzymes.  

I'll take ten percent or more of that a day please!

Okay now, how about Vitamin E? 1 mg. That's 10% for men and 13% percent for women again. Why do women get more than men do? Couldn't you hear the kids when dishing out the Brussels Sprouts at dinnertime? Little Joey yelling out  "Hey, she got more Vitamin E and B6 than me!"

Vitamin E is great! First of all, it helps to protect Vitamin A. It keeps it from oxidizing which would render it useless to the body.  I also reduces the oxidation of polyunsaturated fatty acids so cell membranes are well maintained. Vitamin E is also responsible for the chain of reactions that releases energy from carbohydrates and fats.

Vitamin E dwindles the tendency to form clots in the blood vessels by reducing the stickiness of the blood. It also involved in the formation of red blood cells in the bone marrow.

Okay, sure, put that on my plate!

61 micrograms of folacin or folic acid. That's 31% for men and 34% for women. Okay what does do? Well it is important for blood formation. It's part of an enzyme reaction that produces nucleoproteins necessary for blood cell production in the bone marrow. Thyamine, a key ingredient of DNA is formed from an enzyme reaction in folic acid. Duplication of cells in tremendously slowed without folacin. It also helps prevent the storage of fat in the liver.

Serious stuff!

389 mg  of potassium. Potassium works with sodium to regulate blood pressure. It also helps release energy from carbohydrates and proteins. It assists in transmitting nerve functions and works with magnesium to regulate heart function.

18% Vitamin A in men and 22% in women. Now, if you have been reading my articles faithfully each month you know that we went into vitamin A extensively last month with the sweet potato article.

Here a few highlights on the benefits. Vitamin A is necessary for vision in dim light. It protects against bacterial infections. It is essential for skeletal and tooth development. Protects against certain cancers and is necessary for the formation and maintenance of healthy skin. For more details about vitamin A check out the article  "I Yam what I yam, but a yam ain 't a yam at all."  Okay so it's a little weird, but isn't normality boring?

Along  with all of this, Brussels Sprouts come with beta-carotene and iron as well. It's amazing what one little serving of Brussels Sprouts can bring with them to the party! By the way, a serving of Brussels Sprouts is about 3-½  oz raw.   


Adult Style Brussels Sprouts