Peak season for Brussels sprouts comes right after the first hard frost. The cold weather compels the plants to convert some of their stored starches into sugars to keep the sprouts from freezing, resulting in a tender, more mellow-tasting veggie. Smaller Brussels sprouts also tend to have a sweeter flavor, while larger ones will taste slightly bitter and more sulfuric — much like their cabbage cousins.
Shop and Store
Choose bright, whole, firm sprouts with minimal yellow or brown spots. If you can find sprouts on the stalk, snap them up. They’ll stay fresher longer because the stalk helps the veggie retain moisture and nutrients. Store loose sprouts in a bag in your crisper drawer for up to a week and wash just before cooking to keep the outer leaves from wilting. If you bought a whole stalk of sprouts, wrap the bottom end in a damp towel to extend its shelf life.
If Brussels sprouts still call to mind the odorous, overcooked mini-cabbages of your youth, it might be time to reconsider them. Sprouts benefit from high-heat cooking methods like roasting or searing, which brown the veggie’s natural sugars and balance its earthy taste. Be sure to cook until tender — not mushy — and season with salt and black pepper. Add a savory ingredient like tamari or an acid like lemon juice to round out the flavor.
That slightly sulfuric flavor pairs well with bacon, as in our Bacon-Braised Brussels Sprouts. For a vegetarian spin, try our Sautéed Brussels Sprouts With Coconut. Don’t want to cook your sprouts at all? Try them raw in our Brussels Sprouts Salad, or take the fermentation route with our Brussels Sprouts Kimchi.
This article originally appeared as “Brussels Sprouts” in the November 2021 issue of Experience Life.