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The small winter vegetable with a big flavour
As soon as it gets colder, brussels sprouts begin to appear on the menu. The hearty winter vegetable not only warms you from the inside but also contains more vitamin C than other cabbage varieties.
Brussels sprouts have a striking appearance and resemble a mini cabbage with their green colour, their stalk and their small leaves. The name is due to the fact that they were first cultivated in Belgium in the 16th century. The vegetable enjoyed a popularity boom in the 19th century, and since then it has been a favourite during the winter months in both Europe and the US.
|Calories||43 kcal per 100g|
|Nutrients||3.5g carbohydrate, 4.3g fibre, 0.5g fat, 4.9g protein per 100g|
|Season||September - February|
|Storage||refrigerate or store in a cool cellar|
|Shelf life||up to 5 days|
The biennial plant grows a stalk of about 50-70cm in height, from which the small heads grow. It likes sun and sandy soil, and thrives next to potatoes, salad or beetroots. The harvest period usually starts in September. The vegetable itself does not usually last long and should be eaten relatively quickly. Be careful not to store the sprouts next to fruit that emit large amounts of ethylene – for example, apples. This colourless and odourless gas will make the brussels sprouts spoil faster.
Fresh sprouts can be easily spotted by their green colour, their tightly-closed leaves, and their sensitivity to the touch. As soon as they begin to yellow and the leaves are slightly open or wilted the vegetable should be eaten as soon as possible. If you have a large quantity of brussels sprouts, it is possible to freeze them. For this, simply clean them and blanch them for two minutes in salted water, and then freeze them in freezer bags or containers. They will stay good for at least a year.
Preparing brussels sprouts is relatively easy, there are just a few small things to look out for. Simply remove the outer leaves and trim back the dried part of the stalk. Gently wash the small sprouts and cut a cross into their base in order to help them cook fast and evenly. If they are not all the same size perhaps consider halving some of the larger ones to ensure even cooking.
Now you’re ready to cook them: place them in boiling stock or salted water for 5-7 minutes, until they become tender but still firm to the bite. With gentler cooking methods such as steaming they can take up to 10 minutes. A great alternative is to marinate them in oil and spices for 20 minutes and then bake them in the oven.
Brussels sprouts are quite versatile in the kitchen: combining them with bacon, diced onions, and a generous knob of butter makes them the perfect side for potatoes and roast dinners. But there are even more unusual combinations out there: perhaps a sprout salad with pomegranate seeds and pear? Or try combining brussels sprouts with pasta, a cream sauce, and a cheese topping.
Like many cabbage varieties, when boiled, brussels sprouts often develop a strong odour which is not to everyone’s liking. To remove this, simply add a pinch of sugar to the cooking water. Similarly to red cabbage and kale, brussels sprouts can also have bloating properties. This can be prevented by combining them with spices, such as anise or caraway, which ease digestion.
Sprouts have more calories than their close relatives but they provide a large amount of valuable nutrients. Their low carbohydrate content and their unusually high amount of protein for vegetables make them worth your while. They also contain a considerable amount of vitamin C, which is important for a strong immune system, and potassium which is key for a healthy nervous system.
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