Dec 032013

As part of the cruciferous family of vegetables Brussels sprouts are packed with nutrition, but if you’re like me you probably remember the tasteless, mushy blobs we were forced to eat as kids.  Turned out one of my cousins was stashing these nutritious gems in a planter!

Today you’re more likely to see Brussels sprouts on menus, from casual to fine dining restaurants, and adorning holiday tables.  If you haven’t made friends with this mini-cabbage, now’s the ideal time.

A little Brussels sprout history…..

According to Wikipedia production of Brussels sprouts in the United States began in the 18th century, when French settlers brought them to Louisiana. Thomas Jefferson grew them at Monticello.  Currrently, several thousand acres are planted in the California coastal areas of San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and Monterey Counties of California. The harvest season lasts from June through January. They are also grown in Baja California, Mexico, where the harvest season is from December through June, so they are readily available year round.

What are the Health Benefits of Brussels sprouts?

I thought I was fairly familiar with the health and nutrition benefits of most vegetables in the cruciferous family until I started to research Brussels sprouts.  They provide us with 20 essential vitamins and minerals in just a ½ cup serving, and more than a days worth of the RDA (recommended daily allowance) of Vitamins A, C, and K.  These mini cabbages pack a big punch!

They are also high in folate, potassium, Vitamin E, most of the B complex vitamins, iron, magnesium, zinc, calcium and selenium.  Many of them important antioxidants that help prevent cancers, combat cataracts, boost immunity, and help maintain healthy bones.

How to select and store Brussels sprouts

To ensure even cooking, look for sprouts that are roughly the same size. The smaller sprouts are the best because they are more tender and therefore tastier. They should be firm and without soft or loose leaves.

Store Brussels sprouts in the refrigerator and use within a week of purchase.

How to cook Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts should never be boiled.  They’ll lose many of the nutritious phyto-chemicals that keep us healthy.

One of the most common preparations is to steam them, just until they are tender, to help retain as many of their beneficial nutrients as possible. Drizzle steamed Brussels sprouts with olive oil and fresh garlic for a nutrient-dense side dish. Chop cooked Brussels sprouts and add them to a tossed green salad, pasta sauce or soup.

My favorite way to enjoy them is roasting. Try dusting them with parmesan cheese, toss with bacon or pancetta before roasting, or sprinkle with lemon and zest.

An easy way to shred them for use in salads or slaws is by using your food processor.  Pulse 12 to 15 times, or until shredded.

Enjoy this week’s recipe for roasted balsamic Brussels sprouts, and they’ll take a permanent place on your table.  Roasting gives them a wonderful caramelized flavor, and beautiful golden brown color.


by Kristina Ladau

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