Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Discover: Brussels Sprouts

The Brussels (or brussels) sprout (Brassica oleracea Gemmifera Group) of the Brassicaceae family, is a Cultivar group of wild cabbage cultivated for its small (typically 2.5–4 cm (0.98–1.6 in) diameter) leafy green buds, which visually resemble miniature cabbages.

Brussels sprouts are a cultivar of the same species that includes cabbage, collard greens, broccoli, kale, and kohlrabi: they are cruciferous.
  • They contain good amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid and dietary fibre. Moreover, they are believed to protect against colon cancer, due to their containing sinigrin . 
  • Although they contain compounds such as goitrin that can act as goitrogens and interfere with thyroid hormone production, realistic amounts in the diet do not seem to have any effect on the function of the thyroid gland in humans.
  • Brussels Sprouts were cultivated in Belgium as far back as 1200, hence the name (Brussels is capital of Belgium. 
  • They were first grown commercially in Belgium in the 1580s, now they are cultivated all over Europe.
  • Sprouts are very tolerant of almost all soil conditions although they dislike acid soils which can make them more susceptible to club root. 
  • A firm soil is best in order to enable the root system to support these top heavy plants.
  • They will grow equally well in sun or partial shade, but prefer partial shade. Be sure not to grow them in front of other plants which need full sun, their foliage will put others in the shade. Again, because they are top-heavy, they should be grown in an area which is free from strong winds.
  • Seed should be sown in trays indoors, or under cloches outdoors, in early spring.
  • The sprouts should be transplanted to their final site when all danger of frost has passed, some time during early May. 
  • Brussels sprouts are harvested from late Autumn onwards, a hard frost improves the eating quality of sprouts. 
  • Remove them from the main stem using a knife - simply breaking them off will injure the main stem. 
  • Take the lowest sprouts first and work up the stem as required. 
  • Do not remove all the sprouts from one plant and then harvest from the next plant - the lower sprouts mature earlier than the higher ones. 
  • The most common method of preparing Brussels sprouts for cooking begins with removal of the buds from the stalk. Any surplus stem is cut away, and the surface leaves that are loosened by this cutting are peeled and discarded. 
  • Cooking methods include boiling, steaming and roasting. 
  • To ensure even cooking throughout, buds of a similar size are usually chosen. 
  • Some cooks will cut a cross in center of the stem to aid the penetration.
  • Whatever cooking method is employed, overcooking is best avoided. 
  • Overcooking releases the glucosinolate sinigrin, which has a sulfurous odor. 
  • The odor is the reason many people profess to dislike Brussels sprouts, if they've only tried them overcooked with the accompanying sulfurous taste and smell. 
  • Generally 6–7 minutes boiled or steamed is enough to cook them thoroughly, without overcooking and releasing the sinigrin.

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