Illustration by Kristy Heilenday
Brussels sprouts have deep roots in Virginia; even Thomas Jefferson culled a harvest or two at Monticello in the 19th century, and they remain a lucrative crop today. These cruciferous veggies have a bad reputation for bitterness, but with the right preparation, Brussels sprouts could find a place on your plate — and not just for the holidays.
Though ancestors of the variety were likely harvested in Ancient Rome, modern Brussels sprouts can be traced back to 16th-century Belgium, before they caught on throughout the Netherlands and Europe. They were brought to North America by French settlers in the 18th century and promptly embraced throughout the South; by the 1920s, California was planting its own crops. Brussels sprouts are now one of America’s most widely produced vegetables.
What to Buy
November is peak season for Brussels sprouts, and you’ll find these members of the cabbage family throughout grocery stores and farmers markets from September to mid-February. Whether sold as individual buds or attached to their long, stocky stems, look for sprouts with bright green or deep purple coloring and without much space between each layer of leaves; each head should feel tightly compressed. If you’re searching for sweeter tones, shop for smaller sprouts just after a cold spell.
How to Prepare
These nutrient-packed vegetables are also some of the most versatile, providing a healthy combination of vitamins C, K and B6, along with antioxidants and cholesterol-lowering agents. Prepare them whole, halved, shredded and de-leafed; roasted, sautéed, boiled, fried, raw or braised — their nutrients will vary depending on your method of choice. Always be sure to wash your sprouts thoroughly and remove the stem and any unsavory leaves.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Chefs Joe Sparatta of Heritage and Lee Gregory of The Roosevelt share a recipe from their new Stony Point restaurant, Southbound. (Serves 4)
- 2 pints of Brussels sprouts
- 8 slices of bacon, diced
- 1 apple, grated
- 1 Spanish onion, sliced
- 1 tablespoon of Red Boat Fish Sauce, available at Tokyo Market in Carytown or Tan A Supermarket
- 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- 1/4 cup of vegetable stock
- Chives, to garnish
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Cut the Brussels sprouts in half, removing the core but keeping the leaves intact. Place the halved sprouts in a mixing bowl and toss with oil, salt and pepper, then place them face-down onto a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment. Roast the sprouts for 10 to 12 minutes.
While the Brussels sprouts lightly caramelize, render down the bacon in a pan. Add the onion and heat the mixture on medium-low until it browns.
Add the Brussels sprouts and grated apple to your pan and stir to combine. Add butter and stock, then stir on high heat to emulsify the dish. Plate, garnish with chives and serve.