Second Chance for Brussels Sprouts?

If you swore off them as a kid, taste again. These nutty-flavored globes are loaded with nutrition!
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Brussels sprouts have a bad rep. Some foodies, perhaps recalling the smelly cabbage heads Mom once served, have branded them “America’s least favorite vegetable,” and if you Google “10 most hated foods” you’ll find them topping some of the lists. But when Brussels sprouts are bought fresh and cooked just right, they offer a delicately nutty taste you can learn to enjoy—along with a bushel of health benefits.

Power up

One cup of Brussels sprouts has 3.3 grams of fiber, almost equal to two slices of whole wheat bread. The fiber’s digestive action can help lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

That same cup contains your entire recommended daily intake of vitamin K, which helps promote blood clotting and strengthen your bones. (If you’re on blood thinners, your doctor may want you to go easy on the sprouts, as too much K can inhibit the medications’ effect.) The veggies also provide most of your daily requirement of vitamin C, a must during cold and flu season. They also contain sulforaphane, a phytochemical that is being investigated as a cancer fighter.

And see here: Brussels sprouts are rich in vitamin A and carotenoids, which together help the retinas detect color and protect them from damaging light rays. They’re also high in vitamin B6, which promotes healthy skin and protects nerve function.

Did you know?

Brussels sprouts are from the Gemmifera group of cabbages, known to science as Brassica oleracea. Widespread cultivation of them began in—where else?—Belgium in the late 16th century, and they quickly became common throughout northern Europe. Brussels sprouts came to the United States in the 1820s, when French settlers brought them to Louisiana. Mass cultivation here began in the 1920s, and the sprouts went mainstream in the 1940s with the birth of the frozen food industry.

Buy, store, grow

You could get Brussels sprouts frozen, but fresh sprouts retain more antioxidants and nutrients—and they taste much better too.

Brussels sprouts are in season from late September through February. They’re good on or off the stem, but either way the ripened heads should feel compact and hard when you squeeze them. Smaller sprouts are sweeter, while larger ones are more cabbage-like, so choose according to taste.

Fresh sprouts will keep for weeks when refrigerated in an unlidded bowl or storage container. Before refrigerating, take them off the stem but leave the outer leaves intact—those leaves will shrivel and wilt in open air, but will protect the core and inner layers. Peel off the wilted leaves before cooking.

Brussels sprouts can be boiled, steamed, grilled, roasted or stir-fried. If you don’t like the odor, be sure not to overcook, as this releases a compound that contains sulfur, which is associated with the smell. Some cooks choose to slice the sprouts in half for easier cooking.

Brussels sprouts boil to fork tenderness in 10 to 15 minutes, but many key nutrients can get lost during boiling. Try sautéing them for about 10 minutes or roasting them at 400° F. for 35–40 minutes. Or try braising them—boiling the sprouts for 5–10 minutes and then frying them another 3–5 minutes.

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