Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts have a somewhat bad reputation -- but, although they are often referred to as the dinner table enemy of children everywhere, these sprouts deserve a second chance.

They are actually wonderful sources of vitamin A, folacin, potassium, calcium and fiber. Brussels sprouts are low-fat and high in protein. And while they may be an acquired taste for some, others find brussels sprouts quite delicious.

In this article, we'll be discussing
growing Brussels sprouts, selecting Brussels sprouts and the health benefits of Brussels sprouts.

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Brussels sprouts are cabbage-type heads, nestled in large green leaves.

About Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are miniature cabbage-like heads, 1 or 2 inches in diameter and nestled in among large green leaves, sprout from a tall main stem. Brussels sprouts belong to the cabbage, or cole, family and are similar to cabbage in their growing habits and requirements.

They're hardy -- they are the most cold tolerant of the cole family vegetables -- and easy to grow in the home garden.

Common Name: Brussels Sprouts
Scientific Name: Brassica oleracea; Gemmifera Group
Hardiness: Very Hardy (will survive first frost)

In the next section, we'll discuss when to grow and harvest Brussels sprouts.

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Growing Brussels Sprouts

Once transplanted, Brussels sprouts take some time to grow and require regular maintenance. However, the various types are hardy vegetables, some of which are even disease resistant.

How to Grow Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts grow well in fertile soils and are frost-tolerant. They do best in a cool growing season with day temperatures less than 80 degrees Fahrenheit and night temperatures 20 degrees Fahrenheit lower.

Weather that's too cold for too long or too warm will make the sprouts taste bitter. If they develop in hot weather, they may not form compact heads but instead will remain loose tufts of leaves.

Brussels sprouts are usually grown from transplants. Where there's a long cool period, seeds can be sown directly in the garden in the fall for winter harvest. Plant transplants that are four to six weeks old. If the transplants are leggy or have crooked stems, plant them deeply so they won't grow top-heavy.

Brussels sprouts are often grown from transplants.

How to Harvest Brussels Sprouts

Typically grown from transplants, Brussels sprouts have an almost three month growth cycle. You can harvest brussels sprouts 75 to 90 days after transplanting.

The sprouts mature from the bottom of the stem upward, so start from the bottom and remove leaves and sprouts as the season progresses.

Types of Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are a common vegetable, but its different varieties have some very unusual names. They include:
  • Jade Cross Hybrid, harvest in 95 days; is resistant to yellow virus.
  • Long Island Improved, matures in 90 days.
  • Diablo, harvest in 125 days; is tasty and disease resistant.
In the next section, we'll discuss selecting Brussels sprouts.

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Selecting Brussels Sprouts

When it comes to choosing brussels sprouts, color is the name of the game. The head of the Brussels sprouts is also key.

Preparing Brussels sprouts can be somewhat more complex.

Brussels sprouts should be bright green with firm heads.

Selecting Brussels Sprouts

Fresh Brussels sprouts shine in fall and winter. Look for a pronounced green color and tight, compact, firm heads.

The fewer the yellowed, wilted, or loose leaves the better. You're better off choosing smaller heads; they're more tender and flavorful. Pick ones of similar size so they cook evenly.

Stored in the refrigerator in the cardboard container they came in or kept in a plastic bag, loosely closed, they'll last a week or two.

Brussels Sprouts Preparation and Serving Tips

Dunk sprouts in ice water to debug them. Then rinse them under running water. Pull off loose or wilted leaves; trim the stem ends a little.

Cut an "X" in the bottoms, so the insides cook at the same rate as the leaves. Steaming is your best bet. The sprouts will stay intact, odor will be minimized, and you'll preserve more nutrients than you would if you boiled them.

As with
broccoli and cabbage, the odor becomes most pronounced when overcooked. Brussels sprouts also lose valuable vitamin C when overcooked. So don't be afraid to leave your sprouts a bit on the crisp side.

As soon as you can barely prick them with a fork they're done -- about 7 to 14 minutes, depending on size. Brussels sprouts are delicious served with just a squeeze of lemon. For more flavor, try a mustard sauce.

Next, we'll discuss why Brussels sprouts are so healthy.

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Health Benefits of Brussels Sprouts

No one knows the origin of Brussels sprouts, though it's logical to assume they originated in Belgium. Like nearly all vegetables, Brussels sprouts are naturally low in fat and calories.

But unlike most vegetables, Brussels sprouts are rather high in protein, accounting for more than a quarter of their calories. Although the protein is incomplete -- it doesn't provide the full spectrum of essential amino acids -- it can be made complete with whole grains. This means you can skip a higher-calorie source of protein, like high-fat meat, and occasionally rely on a meal of Brussels sprouts and grains.

Brussels sprouts are loaded with vitamin A, folacin, potassium, calcium. They have 3-5 grams of fiber per cup, and at 25 calories per 1/2 cup cooked, they give us a reason to eat them more often. Brussels sprouts are one of those foods that will fill you up, without filling you out.

Health Benefits of
Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are very high in fiber, and they belong to the disease-fighting cabbage family. Indeed, they look like miniature cabbages. Like broccoli and cabbage -- fellow cruciferous vegetables -- Brussels sprouts may protect against cancer with their indole, a phytochemical.

Brussels sprouts are also particularly rich in vitamin C, another anti-cancer agent. Whether you choose them for their healthiness or because you love Brussels sprouts, one thing is certain: You will be getting a good-for-the-body food that is high in protein and low in fat and calories.

Brussels Sprouts, Fresh, Cooked
Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Calories 30
<1 g
Saturated Fat
0 g
0 mg
7 g
2 g
Dietary Fiber 2 g
17 mg
Vitamin A
604 IU
Vitamin C
48 mg
Folic Acid
47 mcg
1 mg
247 mg
1,369 micrograms

Want more information about Brussels sprouts? Try:
  • Cooking Brussels Sprouts: Learn how to prepare Brussels sprouts.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Grow a full harvest of great vegetables this year.
  • Nutrition: Find out if eating Brussels sprouts fits in with your overall nutrition goals.
  • Gardening: We answer your questions about all things that come from the garden.
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