It’s a debate that can split families at Christmas, says Molly Chenery. No, we’re not talking about whether to watch ‘Call the Midwife’ or the ‘Doctor Who’ Christmas special, we’re talking about the great Brussels sprouts debate...
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you can’t deny that a Christmas dinner would be incomplete without a couple of Brussels sprouts rolling around. Many people are put off by the curious smell that sometimes occurs when cooking Brussels sprouts; however, these unpleasant scents are often simply due to overcooking. Cook in boiling water for 5-10 minutes and you should be safe from the dreaded ‘smelly sock’ aroma.
The Marmite of the Christmas dinner table is in season from August right through to April. Sprouts are planted in fields during April and May and are ready to start harvesting some five months later. Brussels sprouts grow on stalks that vary in heights from 60cm to 120cm tall.
The sprouts or ‘buttons’ grow from the base of the stalk upwards and so it takes farmers several pickings to harvest the entire stalk.
Today, sprouts can be purchased loose or on the stalk; buying them on the stalk is often the cheapest way to buy but also allows the consumer to keep them fresher for longer. The freshest sprouts are green with a white base.
These green gems are packed full of nutritious goodness with high levels of vitamin A and C, folic acid and digestive fibre, which help to protect against colon and stomach cancer. In fact, an 80g serving of sprouts contains four times more vitamin C than one orange. Chinese medicine even prescribes the festive greenery to improve digestive health.
There are more than 110 varieties of Brussels sprouts to choose from, including horseradish and mustard variety. A lot of sprouts are grown in the UK; Brits eat more sprouts than any other country in Europe. The area of production in the UK is equivalent to 3,240 football pitches – now that’s a lot of sprouts!
So whether you’re a lover or hater of these green rough diamonds, you have to admit Christmas dinner just wouldn’t be the same without them. Now that we’ve settled that debate, we’ll let you get on with your Christmas TV selection deliberation.