While they certainly look the part (and come from the same family), Brussels sprouts aren't just mini cabbages. This globe-shaped veggie is a wondrous and delicious thing all its own.
Whether they hold a regular place in your dinner rotation, or you're just starting to open your heart to this little green vegetable, here are five essential things you should know about Brussels sprouts.
1. Brussels sprouts on the stalk stay fresh longer.
Sure, Brussels sprouts on the stalk look fun, but there's an even better reason to buy them this way: they stay fresh longer. As Brussels sprouts age, they lose their sweetness and moisture content. Keep them on the stalk to help retain their volume and plumpness for longer.
2. Late fall to early winter is when you'll find the best Brussels sprouts.
While the season for Brussels sprouts runs from late August through March or so, they're at their peak right now. The best-tasting ones are picked after the first hard frost, since the cold causes the sprouts to produce sugars.
3. The size of the sprout is an indicator of its flavor.
Here's an instance where size matters. The smaller the Brussels sprout, the more tender and sweet it is; the larger the Brussels sprout, the more it tastes like cabbage.
4. Brussels spouts can be eaten raw or cooked.
Like their larger cabbage kin, these sprouts can be eaten both raw and cooked. When eaten raw, it's best cut each sprout crosswise so the leaves separate into thin, lettuce-like shavings. As for cooking, choose your favorite method. They can be boiled, steamed, roasted, braised, or sautéed. Remember to cook them just until tender — any longer and they start to turn mushy and bitter.
5. Save trimming time with a vegetable peeler.
Whether you're preparing Brussels sprouts whole or slicing them into pieces, most recipes instruct you to slice and remove the bottom, which includes the tough part of the core. But we have a better suggestion: Put your knife away, and use the pointed tip of your vegetable peeler to pierce the core; this creates an opening that lets hot water or air in, and evenly cooks the inside until tender.