Brussels sprouts: A subject of culinary debate

Brussels sprouts, Chou de Bruxelles in French, and Spruitjes in Dutch are one of the most iconic vegetables, and people heavily associate them with Belgium. It is a unique and nutritious food that has sparked both admiration and disdain worldwide.

Their bitter taste, distinctive shape, and historical association with Belgium have made them a subject of culinary debate. In China, Brussels sprouts have actually gained popularity in recent years. People with fitness requirements particularly adore them.

Brussels sprouts are small, leafy green vegetables that resemble miniature cabbages. These tiny cruciferous vegetables offer a unique taste that can be described as slightly bitter, nutty, and earthy, with a tender yet firm texture.

They typically measure about 2.5 centimetres in diameter and grow in clusters along the length of a thick stalk. From a nutritional standpoint, Brussels sprouts are a powerhouse. They are low in calories but rich in essential vitamins and minerals. These vegetables are an excellent vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and dietary fibre source.

Despite their name, Brussels sprouts did not originate in Brussels, Belgium. Brussels sprouts were likely first cultivated in ancient Rome, but they gained prominence in Belgium during the 16th century. It is believed to have been derived from the city’s association with vegetable cultivation and popularity. Belgium offers favourable growing conditions: moderate climate and well-drained soil. The vegetable became a staple in Belgian cuisine and eventually spread to other European countries.

Today, Brussels sprouts are a common sight on dinner tables, especially during the winter months in Western Europe.

In 2016, the city of Brussels launched a campaign titled “Sprout to be Brussels” to increase the pride of the inhabitants of Brussels and their visitors. The slogan plays with the words “Proud to be Brussels”. It refers to the controversial reputation of this vegetable with a good sense of humour.

The campaign was quite popular in the city. For example, you could see funny stickers on street sign figures. They all had sprout heads!

The primary reason many people strongly dislike Brussels sprouts is often attributed to their bitter taste. The bitterness is caused by glucosinolates, which are more pronounced in them than other vegetables. However, cooking methods and flavour pairings can help. You can find Brussels sprouts in larger or international supermarkets and on online shopping platforms. Here are some recipes you can try at home.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts: Toss Brussels sprouts with olive oil (you can cut them in half or quarter), salt, and pepper. Roast them in the oven at 200°C for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and crispy.

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts:
Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat.
Add sliced Brussels sprouts and cook for 5-7 minutes until tender.
Season with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Brussels Sprouts Salad: Shred raw Brussels sprouts and toss them with vinegar, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and honey. Add toasted nuts, dried cranberries, and grated Parmesan cheese for extra flavour.

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