The Brussels (or brussels) sprout is a cultivar group of wild cabbage cultivated for its small, leafy green buds, which are typically 2.5–4 cm (0.98–1.6 in) in diameter and visually resemble miniature cabbages. The Brussels sprout is Brassica oleracea, in the Gemmifera Group, of the Brassicaceae family.
Forerunners to modern Brussels sprouts were likely cultivated in ancient Rome. Brussels sprouts as we now know them were grown possibly as early as the 13th century in what is now Belgium. During the 16th century they enjoyed a popularity in the southern Netherlands that eventually spread throughout the cooler parts of Northern Europe.
Brussels sprouts grow in temperature ranges of 7–24 °C (45–75 °F), with highest yields at 15–18 °C (59–64 °F). Plants grow from seeds in seedbeds or greenhouses, and are transplanted to growing fields. Fields are ready for harvest 90 to 180 days after planting. The edible sprouts grow like buds in a spiral array on the side of long thick stalks of approximately 60 to 120 cm (24 to 47 in) in height, maturing over several weeks from the lower to the upper part of the stalk. Sprouts may be picked by hand into baskets, in which case several harvests are made of 5 to 15 sprouts at a time, by cutting the entire stalk at once for processing, or by mechanical harvester, depending on variety. Each stalk can produce 1.1 to 1.4 kg (2.4 to 3.1 lb), although the commercial yield is approximately 900 g (2.0 lb) per stalk. In the home garden, “sprouts are sweetest after a good, stiff frost.”
Brussels sprouts are a cultivar of the same species that includes cabbage, collard greens, broccoli, kale, and kohlrabi; they are cruciferous. They contain good amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid and dietary fibre. Moreover, they are believed to protect against colon cancer, due to their containing sinigrin. Although they contain compounds such as goitrin that can act as goitrogens and interfere with thyroid hormone production, realistic amounts in the diet do not seem to have any effect on the function of the thyroid gland in humans.
Nutritional and medicinal value
Brussels sprouts, as with broccoli and other brassicas, contains sulforaphane, a chemical believed to have potent anti-cancer properties. Although boiling reduces the level of the anti-cancer compounds, steaming, microwaving, and stir frying does not result in significant loss.
Brussels sprouts are also a source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells.