Brussels sprouts are cruciferous vegetables that look like mini cabbages. They are related to kale, broccoli and collard greens. They have a flavor that is similar to green cabbage and can taste bitter or sweet depending on how they are prepared. When cooked correctly, they have a nutty, earthy flavor that is slightly more intense than green cabbage or broccoli. They also have a bit of a crunch to them.
Brussel sprouts are also high in nutrients, particularly vitamin C. A press release from Asda supermarket says they contain four times more of this important nutrient than an orange and it is thought that brussel sprouts help to reduce the risk of cold and flu symptoms as well as boosting the immune system. They are also a good source of folic acid, iron and magnesium.
While many people hate brussel sprouts, it is worth persevering with them as tastes change with age and those that do not like them when they are young may develop a liking for the vegetable with maturity. However, if they are cooked badly, such as when boiled to mush, they will have an unpleasant bitter taste.
Research by scientists at agrochemical company Syngenta has led to the development of varieties that are milder in flavour and less bitter than the ones available on the market before 1994. Van der Toorn explains: ‘After discovering that a specific group of glucosinolates in the Brussels sprout caused the bitter taste, plant breeders searched through our extensive collections for varieties with lower levels of these glucosinolates and created better-tasting brussel sprouts.’ The first of these, Maximus, came onto the market in 1994 and a new variety called Helemus is expected to be on shelves at Christmas time.