Latin name: Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera
What are Brussels Sprouts?
Members of the Cruciferae family (also known as the Brassicaceae family), Brussels sprouts are relatives of kale, cabbage, collards and broccoli. Brussels sprouts resemble miniature green cabbages and grow in bunches of 20 to 40 on the stem of a plant that can grow as high as 3 feet tall.
The origins of Brussels sprouts are unknown, but they are thought to have been first cultivated in ancient Rome. The first written reference of them is from the late sixteenth century in Belgium, specifically in a region near Brussels, after which they are named.
Cooking methods include boiling, steaming and roasting; 6 to 7 minutes should suffice. Be sure not to overcook, or you run the risk of releasing the glucosinolate sinigrin, which gives them the sulfurous taste and smell that lead many people away from Brussels sprouts.
What are the health benefits of Brussels Sprouts?
Brussels sprouts contain high amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid, vitamin B6, calcium, iron, and dietary fiber. Vitamin C supports immune function, boosts skin health, and protects from heart disease. The high amounts of vitamin A and beta-carotene also defend the body from infection, promote vision health, and support supple skin.
Additionally, Brussels sprouts, like other cruciferous vegetables, are a rich source of the phytonutrients that help cleanse the body of cancer-causing substances. Recent studies show that those who eat more cruciferous vegetables have a much lower risk of a number of cancers, especially lung, colon, breast, ovarian and bladder cancer. Their content of sinigrin, which is responsible for their sulfurous odor, is believed to be effective in protecting against colon cancer; their high fiber content accounts for their ability to promote good bowel health.
New research reveals that crucifers provide significant cardiovascular benefits as well. Because Brussels sprouts are particularly rich in the B vitamin folate, which is critical for normal tissue growth, they are especially important to eat during pregnancy. Brussels sprouts are also high in choline, an essential nutrient for memory and brain health.
Where can I find Brussels Sprouts?
Brussels sprouts can be found in most grocery stores and many outdoor markets in season. They are at the peak of their growing season from autumn through early spring.
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