A Salute to the Brassica oleracea

During a season when families come together, the Brussels sprout can be a true divider! Why do we only eat them at Christmas? ask some; why do we eat them at all? (wail those who are less discerning). At a time when many of us will be faced with this innocuous vegetable, I decided it was time to find out why it is rather like Marmite, loved by some, hated by a seemingly endless throng. Why does this small cabbage-like plant stir such strong emotions?

Dr Adam Cunliffe, nutritional scientist and associate lecturer at the London South Bank University, has researched why people dislike certain foods and states that “A lot of people, by the time they reach adulthood, haven’t learned to like a lot of what falls into the category of bitter foods, which Brussels sprouts do. Innately, we’re born to reject bitter foods because for every one plant or potential foodstuff in nature which is bitter and good for us, there’s probably 50 which are bitter and poisonous.”

In some ways, this distaste is a protective mechanism although it can deter us from eating some foods that are highly nutritional (like sprouts). I feel that some people are really missing out on a much-maligned vegetable that should really be celebrated for its true worth.

The truth of the matter is that Britons eat more Brussels sprouts than any other European nation and many of those are outside of the festive season. A serving of this ambrosia contains more vitamin C than an orange. They also contain plenty of vitamin K and folic acid (an aid to fertility, so it is said). The current world record for sprout eating is held by a Swede; he loves them that much he ate 31 of them in one minute! In the run-up to Christmas, Asda will sell more than 140 million of them so I know it’s not just me that loves these beautiful green orbs of joy!

In a world, and a time, when there is much animosity surrounding us, let’s give the Brussels sprout a chance! On Christmas Day, when you are sitting down to your sumptuous meal, don’t try to hide that sprout under the cranberry sauce, or feed it to the dog! Savour it, delight in its slight bitterness, celebrate the perfection of the goodness all wrapped up in a sphere.

Miss Gilmour, Deputy Head, Pastoral Care