The first round of freshly harvested Brussels sprouts is just beginning to emerge.
Arriving each year prior to Thanksgiving, Brussels sprouts are a staple for many this time of year. And they’re often highlighted throughout the holiday season.
Resembling miniature cabbages, Brussels sprouts consist of a compact network of overlapping bright green leaves attached at their base. Each individual sprout is attached to a large stalk in the field, which are usually harvested from the stalk prior to sale and sold loose by the pound.
Some local growers do sell the entire stalks, usually with at least a few pounds worth of sprouts ready for harvest in the comfort of your home kitchen.
While the stalk itself is discarded, the individual Brussels sprouts, as well as the broad leaves at the top of the stalk, are quite delicious. The sprouts are most commonly roasted whole in the oven with a little olive oil and seasoning, but are also excellent when steamed, boiled or sautéed.
The leaves at the top of the stalk are most commonly steamed or sautéed.
Brussels sprouts are a member of nutrient-packed cruciferous vegetables, belonging to the Brassicaceae family. Sharing the likes of broccoli, cauliflower, kale and cabbage, these vegetables are known for being some of the most nutrient rich foods. Members of this family, in particular, are praised for their significant amounts of the nitrogen compounds known as indoles, which appear to lower the risk of various forms of cancer.
Brussels sprouts are a very good source of dietary fiber; vitamin A, C, K, and B6, as well as folate, potassium and manganese. They are additionally a good source of thiamin, riboflavin, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and copper.
The nutritional value of cruciferous veggies cannot be understated.
When selecting your Brussels sprouts, look for those with a vibrant color across their outer surface. You may see a small amount of sunburn or yellowing on the very outer leaves but these can be easily discarded.
The base of the individual sprouts should look fresh, a sign they were just harvested. They should also feel dense for their size. The sprouts with the most compact leaves are preferred.
Once home, Brussels sprouts should be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. They will often last a couple of weeks, but like most produce, the sooner you eat them the better.
When preparing Brussels sprouts, I will first give them a quick rinse under cold water, and then dry with a towel. While it is a little more work, I like to remove a few layers of each sprout. To do this, slice off the hard white base at the bottom of the sprout.
The first few layers of leaves, which are attached closer to the out base, should come right off. You will then have nice clean sprouts to work with.
I most commonly prepare my Brussels sprouts by roasting them in the oven. I drizzle them with olive oil and season them. And I absolutely love the crispy exterior leaves and soft flavorful center.
This week I prepared some roasted Brussels sprouts and carrots. They’re tossed with crumbled bacon, chevre, aged balsamic vinegar and fresh cilantro.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
2 pounds Brussels sprouts.
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch-long thin strips.
Olive oil to drizzle.
3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled.
2 ounces chevre,
½ cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves.
Aged balsamic vinegar.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Rinse and dry your Brussels sprouts, then remove the hard stem from each sprout.
Discard a few layers of the outer leaves. In a mixing bowl, add the Brussels sprouts and carrots, and drizzle with a little olive oil, just enough to lightly coast the sprouts and carrots.
Season liberally with salt and pepper. Toss, then place sprouts in a single layer in a baking dish and the carrots on top of the sprouts in a single layer. Place in the oven and roast until the Brussels sprouts are cooked through, about 45 minutes.
Place in a serving bowl and top with crumbled bacon, chevre, aged balsamic, and fresh cilantro.
Yield: Serves 6 sides.