Brussels sprouts are on sale this week at our grocery store for $1 a pound — and they are beautiful, small, tender Brussels sprouts. Chances are, they’re available and in-season at your local markets, too.
Brussels sprouts are a long-season vegetable that’s a member of the brassica (cabbage, broccoli, collards) family. They grow a long stalk all summer, then put out sprouts that are most tender after a frost. I’ve heard that you can store Brussels sprouts for a month or so in a root cellar if the plants are pulled up by the roots and stored.
We’ve never managed to store them, because we’ve never succeeded in growing them. One year, they didn’t grow big enough to make sprouts. One year, aphids ate off all the leaves and the plants never matured properly. This year, they were too crowded, but once we pulled out the smothering tomatoes, the sprouts flourished. The sprouts had reached about 1/2″ diameter when we had a hard freeze. We might have harvested and tried them … but when Mr. Cheap went out one day, something had climbed up the stems and ripped the sprouts off the plants.
(Tell me we’ve read too much Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH and Redwall around here and are anthropomorphizing the critters, but it pleases me to visualize the delight of the mice as they scampered up the loglike (to them) Brussels sprouts stems to pull the equivalent of giant cabbages off for their larder.)
By now, I suspect many of you are moaning, “But why such a fuss about Brussels sprouts?” You might remember soggy, mushy, boiled sprouts you had to choke down as a child before you got your dessert.
But really, Brussels sprouts are extremely nutritious with 65 calories, 6.4 grams of fiber and 5.6 grams of protein per cup — as well as great amounts of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, iron and calcium. And they are delicious … when you cook them like this:
- Trim the “rusty” ends off each sprout. Cut each sprout in half. (This is the hardest part of the whole process.)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Steam the sprouts: Put the sprouts in a microwaveable bowl and add a splash of water. Cover with a microwaveable plate and microwave until tender (ours takes about 10 minutes, but it’s an ooooollllld microwave). Or steam in a steamer or pan.
- Oil a baking pan generously. Add the sprouts and toss them around with salt, pepper and any herbs you want to add (like thyme). Arrange the sprouts so they are mostly cut-side down.
- Roast the sprouts in the oven for about 20 minutes.
Alternatively, for a smaller batch, skip steps 2-5. Heat a big skillet. Add a bit of oil and toss the sprouts around as above. Arrange the sprouts cut-side down. When they have started to brown, add a splash of water or stock and cover. Steam until tender.
In both cases, cook the sprouts until they can be pierced easily with a fork. Make sure they are nice and brown. They will be tender, sweet, nutty and delicious. You’ll like them. I promise!
In fact, during the past year, this recipe has won over at least half a dozen non-sprouts eaters to the joys of Brussels sprouts.