Brussels Sprouts in the Snow November 27 2011, 1 Comment
My kids don't like Brussels sprouts. I've never met one who does. It's one of those things. I never liked them either, but back then you ate what was on your plate. No reserve bowls of cereal on hand for picky eaters, at least not in my old house. Now, sprouts are one of my favorite vegetables, but I only grow a few plants. In fact, I grow them almost exclusively for Thanksgiving. That seems to be the only time you can count on enough grown ups around to fully appreciate them.
Brussels sprouts are part of the brassica genus, along with the equally reviled broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. They are also known as "cruciferous" for the cross shape of their flower petals. Brussels sprouts have been cultivated for many centuries in Belgium and the other cool areas of northern Europe. French settlers brought brussles sprouts to the United States and Canada, and Thomas Jefferson reportedly grew them at Monticello. Lately brassicas have been touted for their cancer-blocking and DNA protective properties, whatever that means.
The one thing I know for sure is that brussels sprouts do taste better after a good frost. Supposedly, the complex carbohydrates break down into sugars with each freeze and thaw. The sugars act as an antifreeze. I just think they taste nuttier, and they're firmer too. By Thanksgiving, anything left in the garden is bound to be frostbitten. This year there was 6 inches of snow. It's a strange but satisfying feeling, brushing the snow from green plants and picking vegetables. You have to love brussels sprouts. Talk about an extended season. I cut each stalk at the base with pruning shears, and stripped the leaves. A bushel basket sat on the snowy lawn. My hands were freezing, but the last harvest was in.
When I brought the stalks inside to our big farm sink, they were steaming with cold. I snapped off each sprout, even the the little dime sized ones at the top. I figured I got a pound or so per stalk. My wife and I cleaned them up while the pumpkin pies were baking. Brussels sprouts and pies were our contribution the next day when we arrived at Grandma's house. Some people say they taste best sauteed or roasted, but I love them just plain steamed with a pat of butter and dash of salt. They look great on the plate right between the turkey and mashed potatoes. This year they were especially delicious. The kids echoed their usual chorus of yuck and gross. Silly kids. One of these years I'll grow more, and maybe even pick some before the snow flies.