Brussel sprouts, are hardy, slow-growing, long-season vegetables belonging to the cabbage family. In the proper season of the year, it can be grown in most areas of the country. In mild areas, or where there is deep snow cover, the sprouts may overwinter.
The “sprouts” (small heads that resemble miniature cabbages) are produced in the leaf axils, starting at the base of the stem and working upward. Sprouts improve in quality and grow best during cool or even lightly frosty weather. Brussels sprouts require a long growing period, though newer hybrids have greatly reduced this requirement. In all but the most northern states, summers are usually too warm for completely satisfactory production from spring plantings. Plants set out in late spring to early summer grow satisfactorily and mature high-quality sprouts when the fall weather begins to cool.
Now that the weather is really getting cool and we are getting frost advisories, it is time to harvest and use the delectible little sprouts. The small sprouts or buds form heads one to two inches in diameter. They may be picked (or cut) off the stem when they are firm and about one inch in size. The lower sprouts mature first. The lowermost leaves, if they have not been removed already, should be removed when the sprouts are harvested. Harvest sprouts before the leaves yellow.
The key to cooking Brussels sprouts is in not overcooking them. The leaves cook faster than the core, so cut an X in the bottom of the stem for even cooking when cooking the sprouts whole. As a rule, when Brussels sprouts have lost the bright green color, they are overcooked and have lost a considerable amount of nutritional value as well. My favorite method is to blanch the sprouts, then slice them in half and quick saute them in a little butter or olive oil with salt and pepper. This simple preparation brings out the best in the sprouts and eliminates any bitter flavor!
If you want to preserve the sprouts for later use, the best way to accomplish this is to freeze the sprouts once they are blanched…so remove them from the hot water and plunge them into iced water, then drain, dry and freeze flat on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, transfer to a plastic storage container or freezer bag. Enjoy these delicious bundles of fall flavor with your harvest meals, Thanksgiving or even a Tuesday night with a good chicken!