Love them or hate them, for they are the most “marmite” of all vegetables, there is no getting away from the fact that the humble Brussels sprout is one of the healthiest of your five a day. They are also the vegetable perhaps most synonymous with Christmas.
Part of the Brassica family, along with cabbage, broccoli and kale, Brussels sprouts are thought to have been cultivated in Italy in Roman times but there are records of them being grown in Belgium as far back as the 13th century and it is their popularity there that led to the French christening them “Brussels sprouts” in the 18th century, when it was common to put a landmark on a food.
Brussels sprouts are among the top 20 healthiest foods according to the ANDI scoring system, which measures vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient content in relation to calorific content. A cupful contains just 38 calories, no fat, eight grams of carbohydrate, and three grams of protein plus 195% of the vitamin K you need in one day, 125% of your vitamin C requirement and 10% or more of the vitamin A, vitamin B-6, folate, potassium and manganese you should eat each day.
Studies have suggested that eating Brussels sprouts decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease while promoting a healthy complexion and increased energy. They also contain sulforaphane, which has the power to inhibit a harmful enzyme known as HDAC that is involved in the progression of cancer cells.
The high vitamin K content means that eating Brussels sprouts is good for bone health, but anyone taking blood-thinning medication shouldn’t suddenly start to eat more of them as vitamin K also plays a large role in blood clotting.
In this country Brussels sprouts are at their best from October to March. Buy fresh, looking for very firm and green specimens. Small is best, they will be tender and cook more quickly. The simplest way to cook them is to steam them for five to seven minutes, until they yield when pierced with a sharp knife but still retain some “bite”. They should remain a vibrant green, if they’ve lost colour, well, you’ve probably cooked them too long.
There are always sprouts left over on Boxing Day (can any of us ever cook just the right amount?) and for many families Bubble & Squeak is part of the Christmas tradition, but this year why not try something a bit different, such as this dish by Nisha Katona, which we found on the marvellous Love Food Hate Waste website.
Recipe: Lemon and mustard seed Brussels sprouts
- 700g Brussels sprouts (leftover steamed or boiled sprouts are perfect)
- 2 tsp mustard seeds ½ lemon, juiced
- 1 tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp sugar
- salt to taste
- 1 tsp English mustard, diluted (optional)
- Heat some oil and add the mustard seeds until they pop to a lively grey colour. Now add the slightest touch of chilli powder- this is to give flavour not heat.
- Add the brussel sprouts in and turn down your heat, partially covering them. Add the turmeric and the salt and sugar and stir occasionally until the sprouts turn soft.
- Now add the juice of half a lemon and turn up the heat a little to almost caramelise the dish with a final blast.
- An additional twist is to add the English mustard paste at the end for a final bubble through.
We love Brussels sprouts here at The Bristol Shop and definitely agree with Susan Taylor, one of our favourite Bristol artists who says: “Brussels sprouts are for life not just for Christmas”.