Spring Brussels Sprouts

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Brussels sprouts on plateBrussels sprouts are a biennial grown as a cool-season annual. They survive winter snows to push their final harvest of miniature cabbage-like sprouts in spring.

Brussels sprouts have a nutty, cabbage-like flavor that makes a delicious hot side dish dressed with butter or meat-roasting juices.

Lightly steamed Brussels sprouts are perfect with a lemon-butter sauce, or you can simmer them with chopped celery until tender and then fold them into a cheese sauce.

If all of this sounds too rich, cooked and cooled Brussels sprouts can be halved or quartered and simply added to a tossed green salad.

Brussels sprouts can be divided into early, midseason, and late varieties. Early varieties are harvested in mid-fall; midseason varieties are harvested from mid-fall through mid-winter; and late varieties are harvested from mid-winter to early spring. Late or spring varieties yield the largest number of sprouts.

Choose. Select Brussels sprouts with small, firm, compact heads that are bright green.

Choose sprouts that are well formed and about 1 to 1½ inches (25-38 mm) in diameter, nearly the same size so that they will cook evenly. The smaller the sprouts the more tender they will be in the kitchen. Avoid Brussels sprouts that are puffy, wilted, or yellow.

Young leaves found growing between sprout head may be eaten as greens.

Store. Brussels sprouts will keep in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. The longer they are refrigerated the stronger their flavor. You can freeze Brussels sprouts (after blanching) for up to 4 months. Do not wash Brussels sprouts until you are ready to use them.

Prepare. To prepare Brussels sprouts for cooking, remove the stems and loose yellow leaves then wash the sprouts under running water or soak them for 15 minutes in lemon or vinegar water to get rid of hidden insects.

Cooking. Brussels sprouts are only eaten cooked. You can steam, butter sauté, boil, stir-fry, deep fry, and microwave Brussels sprouts. Before cooking, cut an X in each stem so that the sprouts cook evenly. A light cooking will preserve the sprout’s delicate taste. The smaller you cut Brussels sprouts the quicker they will cook. You can cut sprouts into quarters for quick cooking. Avoid overcooking Brussels sprouts; they will become soft and mushy and lose flavor if overcooked.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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