Taking a look at Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts are the newest member of the cabbage family. The leaves are on the top of the plant and the tiny heads completely surround the stalk. These heads resemble tiny cabbages. There are several types of cabbage: red cabbage; green, crinkly-leaved Savoy cabbage; green, smooth-leaved cabbage; and green-leaved Chinese cabbage.

— Nutrition information

The scientific name for the group of plants that includes Brussels sprouts and cabbage is cruciferous. Scientists use this term to identify plants whose blossoms resemble a cross. The group of vegetables that includes cabbage and Brussels sprouts may help prevent cancer. Both cabbage and Brussels sprouts are also good sources of vitamin C.

However, one serving of Brussels sprouts provides more than twice the vitamin C provided by an equal amount of cabbage. Brussels sprouts are also a good source of vitamin A and potassium.

— Selection

Brussels Sprouts: Choose sprouts that are firm and compact and have a good green color. Avoid sprouts that look puffy, wilted, or yellow.

Cabbage: Choose solid, fresh-looking heads that are heavy for their size. The outer leaves should be smooth, with good color (deep green or deep red, depending on the type). Avoid wilted or yellow cabbage.

— Storage

Brussels Sprouts: Store unwashed and covered in the refrigerator. Use within three to five days.

Cabbage: Store in a plastic bag or container in the refrigerator. Unwashed cabbage heads will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

— Preparation

Brussels sprouts and cabbage contain the mineral sulfur. When these vegetables are cooked, the sulfur is released and an unpleasant odor is produced. The longer you cook these vegetables, the more sulfur is released. To reduce the smell, cook vegetables quickly.

— Steaming

Brussels sprouts: Rinse well and trim stems. If you cut a cross in the bottom of each stem, the sprouts will cook more quickly. Steam 15 to 20 minutes.

Cabbage: Remove damaged or wilted outer leaves. If cut in wedges, steam ten to 15 minutes. If shredded, steam three to eight minutes.

How to steam: Bring one inch of water to boil in the bottom of a pan. Place a colander or a collapsible steaming basket in the pan. Then put the vegetables in the colander or steamer and cover it tightly. Reduce heat to medium-low, but make sure it is high enough to keep the water bubbling.

— Microwaving

Brussels sprouts: Remove loose leaves. Trim each stem and cut a cross in the bottom to speed cooking. Arrange one pound (4 cups) in a 1 1/2 quart covered dish. Add 1/4 cup water. Microwave for four to eight minutes on high power until tender (easily pierced with a fork) Stir once during cooking.

Cabbage: Place one pound (a small head) of wedges in a covered dish with two tablespoons water. Microwave four to six minutes. Stir once.

Note: For red cabbage, also add two teaspoons of vinegar.

Source: University of Maine Cooperative Extension


Brussels Sprouts with Scallions

1 pound Brussels sprouts 1 tablespoon margarine 4 scallions, thinly sliced 1 tablespoon lemon juice black pepper

Steam Brussels sprouts until tender. Drain well. Meanwhile, melt margarine in a skillet and sauté scallions until tender. Add the cooked Brussels sprouts to the pan and stir to blend the vegetables. Add lemon juice and pepper (to taste).

Festive Coleslaw

5 ½ cups shredded cabbage

3 celery ribs, thinly sliced

1 large carrot, shredded

1 each medium green, sweet red and yellow peppers, julienned

1 medium onion, halved and sliced


¼ cup sugar

¼ cup lime juice

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, celery, carrot, peppers and onion. In a small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients. Pour over cabbage mixture. Toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, stirring occasionally.

Sandra R. Cain is the Bladen County Extension director. She can be reached at sandra_cain@ncsu.edu or 910-862-4591.