Brussels sprouts contain significant amounts of vitamin A, C, potassium, folic acid and dietary fibre as well as being great at fending off osteoporosis.
Love them or hate them, there is no avoiding brussels sprouts at this time of year. These controversial cabbages belong to the Brassica oleracea genus of the Cruciferae family and are close relatives to cabbage, broccoli, bok choy, turnip, kohlrabi and radish.
Being a cold-season crop, a touch of frost is said to enhance their flavour and make them slightly sweeter.
Brussels sprouts contain significant amounts of vitamin A, C, potassium, folic acid and dietary fibre. They are low in fat, with one serving (1/2 cup cooked) containing approx 32 calories. They are also rich in vitamin K, which activates a protein called osteocalcin found in bones, which holds calcium molecules in place, thus helping to protect against osteoporosis.
Brussels sprouts are especially good for pregnant women due to their high content of folic acid. Being a member of the cruciferous family, they are packed with phytochemicals, which are known to fight off various forms of cancer. For something so compact, they certainly pack in an amazing amount of goodness.
When buying brussels sprouts, choose small ones with tightly packed leaves, and if you are picking them direct from the stalks, start picking at the bottom. And be sure to keep picking before they open or blow. Don’t wash or trim sprouts before storing them, but do remove any outer leaves that are yellow or wilted. If the outer leaves are green and healthy don’t remove them as they contain the most nutrients.
So, why all the controversy over the salubrious sprout? Fans like myself attribute sprout animosity to poor preparation and overcooking. From a visual, taste and nutrient perspective, this can only lead to culinary failure. When overcooked, sprouts release sulphur compounds, resulting in an unpleasant smell and a subsequent strong taste. On the other hand, if managed correctly in the kitchen, sprouts can offer a deliciously delectable, subtle nutty flavour.
Boiled, baked, roasted, steamed, stir-fried, shredded, skewered, sauteed, deep-fried, caramelised, added to soups, pastas, pies, warm salads, curries, casseroles or gratins, the possibilities for preparing sprouts, stretch much farther than the soggy seasonal side dish that they are often condemned to.
Bacon, butter, salt, pepper and cheese are some of their greatest allies in the kitchen.
Traditionally the base of brussels sprouts are ‘crossed’ with a knife to lead to more even cooking. Others believe that this crossing procedure leads to a leaching of flavours and that it’s best to cut sprouts in half for a tastier result. This is a matter of personal taste and often depends on the recipe to hand. Whether you want your sprouts, sliced, whole, halved, quartered or shredded is up to you and the dish to hand.
So if you have been left scarred by visions and tastes of watery, yellow, soggy sprouts and sermons on how these overcooked aliens are actually good for you, why not take revenge and remedy your previously tainted palate by rustling up a saucy non-traditional sprout dish this winter.
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