Written by Sophie Djen, Agriculture and Design Intern
Brussels sprouts are a controversial vegetable because most people really dislike it due to its bitter flavors, but here at EGC we love them and they are making their comeback! These mini cabbages are a great winter vegetable and perfect to add to any vegetable garden.
Brussels sprouts (Brassica oleracea var. Gemmifera) are part of the family of cruciferous vegetables, which include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and collard greens. They are biennial, meaning they have two growing seasons in their life cycle, but are typically grown as an annual, starting with a new plant each year. The reason why this family of vegetables all have a distinct bitter flavor and odor is due to it containing glucosinolate, which is a sulfur-containing phytochemical. They are typically planted in the mid to late summer to have a successful fall to winter harvest. They love full sun, with loamy, well-drained soils. Consider planting brussels sprouts with rosemary, basil,onions, garlic, and beets . However, they should be planted away from strawberries, other cruciferous vegetables, and nightshades like eggplants and tomatoes. The glucosinolate in brussels sprouts makes strawberries and nightshades compete for nutrients and inhibit their growth. Planting them with other cruciferous vegetables also runs the risk of the plants getting diseases.
You’ll know they are ready to harvest when the lower sprouts are approximately 1 inch in diameter. If you wait until they get too tall they will start to crack and turn very bitter. To remove each sprout, first remove the leaf below each sprout first, then twist and pull the sprout off the stem. This can also be done with pruning shears.
There are many ways to enjoy brussels sprouts without them coming out bitter and mushy. They can be roasted, fried, or baked to get crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. It can also be eaten raw, preferably shaved very thin so it’s not too bitter. No matter how you enjoy brussels sprouts, they are full of vitamin C, K, folate (vitamin B9), carotenoids, and fiber.
With your harvested brussels sprouts, try out these recipes that highlight the sprout in a delicious way! Recipe courtesy of Bon Appetit:
- ½ lb. brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp. kosher salt, plus more
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup honey
- ⅓ cup sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
- ¾ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced on a diagonal
- 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
Place a rimmed baking sheet on bottom rack of oven; preheat to 450°. Toss brussels sprouts and oil in a large bowl; season with salt and black pepper.
Carefully remove baking sheet from oven. Using tongs, arrange brussels cut side down on baking sheet. Roast brussels on bottom rack until softened and deeply browned, 20–25 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring honey to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until honey is a deep amber color but not burnt (it will be foamy, that’s okay), 3–4 minutes.
Remove from heat and add vinegar and red pepper flakes, if using, and whisk until sauce is smooth (it will bubble up quite aggressively when you add the vinegar before settling). Return saucepan to medium heat, add butter and ½ tsp. salt, and cook, whisking constantly, until glaze is glossy, bubbling, and slightly thickened, 3–4 minutes.
Transfer brussels sprouts to a large bowl. Add glaze and scallions and toss to combine. Transfer to a platter and top with lemon zest.