Sunday, 23 December 2007

Brussels Spruts

It must be Christmas Eve. Those little green things called spruts or sprots have appeared on the greengrocery shopping list. It occurred to me as I tried to interpret my own writing in the greengrocers (thereby holding up the 30 people trying to nudge their way past down it’s narrow aisle) that I didn’t even know why Brussels Sprouts were so called. The sprout bit I could understand since they grow anew every Christmas but why blame the Belgians? Their forerunners (according to Wikipedia) were eaten in Ancient Rome which could do much to account for the Decline and Fall whilst their popularity in Southern Netherlands could explain Hitler’s success there.

In our household Jo quite likes sprouts and will occasionally treat herself to an out of date net of them at the supermarket. I can just about bear them and Richard hates them to the extent that he won’t even have them on his plate – as has been the case with all folk under twenty since sprits first appeared massed next to Tiny Tim’s Christmas Goose. Not the refusing to have the on the plate bit – that’s definitely modern youth. We all disliked them as children but in the good old days children (who had to be seen and not heard) had to eat what was on their plate and had no choice about what ended up there. Bring back the birch and going to bed without supper, says I...

A sprout producer (I won’t call him a farmer because he was pictured wearing a white coat and living in a factory as opposed to chewing a piece of grass whilst leaning against a tractor in muddy wellies) was on television the other day. He said one of the reasons we don’t like sprouts was because in the ‘old days’ they came into the shops ungraded by size and when they were cooked some became overcooked and some undercooked. Now the little sprits all run around on conveyor belts, falling off at different intervals so that we cannot make this disastrous mistake. It seemed a strange excuse to me – after all, we never measured the other vegetables when we cut them into pieces to boil them. I cannot, for example, recall sorting carrot chunks or peas or grading cabbage leaves for thickness.

One consolation is we only have to eat four of them – that, according to a leading nutritionist constitutes a serving. Must tell Jo that if she does the dishing out tomorrow... They are, like all distasteful things, good for us.

“Brussels sprouts are full of nutrients and contain significant amounts of vitamin C. In fact, gram for gram, Brussels sprouts contain nearly fifty percent more vitamin C than an orange. Just four to six Brussels sprouts contain the adult daily requirement for vitamin C. Like other cruciferous vegetables, Brussels sprouts contain nitrogen compounds called indoles, known for their cancer fighting properties. Brussels sprouts are also a good source of folate, potassium, vitamin K, fibre and beta carotene. Nutritional information per serving (4 sprouts): 33 kcal, 7 g carbohydrate, 0 g fat, 3 g protein, 3 g fibre “

There are even websites devoted to make us enjoy the Brussels/Brussel Sprout like This includes a recipe – don’t they know the traditional English way to cook everything is to bung it in a pan of water and leave it for half an hour? Mind you, since their recipe involves olive oil, lemon juice and garlic I suppose you could make most things palatable with that lot. Another site ( uses hot pepper flakes, nutmeg, garlic and parmesan cheese to hide the flavour.

It is worth noting that even the wonderful set of creations done by bored chefs and including these little sheepses fails to include the sprout.

I think we need to just come out and admit it – those dreaded sprouts taste pretty awful. Still, it’s Christmas, we mustn’t enjoy ourselves too much. Baa Huumbug.

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