This is what the vegetable should look like before it is harvested, but my own try at growing these impressive stalks didn’t work out as planned. At the time when little buds should be growing into big sprouts, there was nothing but big, bare stems. Could the flocks of quail who frequented our back yard have anything to do with this? I knew they ate the leaves on top….
Eventually I took the time to examine those stems up close, and there were indeed little sprouts on them, the size of pinheads, and never able to grow larger. My plants had been so starved by the constant bird pruning that they had nothing to put toward production of fruit.
I love to cook Brussels sprouts, and even B. has overcome his off-putting childhood initiation so that now he happily eats them. Cooked, mind you. Once as a little boy he was accompanying a farmer friend of the family on a walk through the vegetable garden when the man plucked a sprout off the stalk and handed it to young B. saying, “Here, try it, it’s a Brussels sprout.” B. obediently chewed the raw sprout and found it the most horrible thing he’d eaten in his short life.
It took many years for him to get over that first taste. Sprouts are so darling and yummy, though, that simple steaming has been enough preparation to suit us most of the time. After I got married I learned to cut a deep X into the base of each sprout before dropping it into the steamer basket. That lets the inside leaves cook along with the outside, so you aren’t left with a choice between mushy outsides or crunchy centers.
Now I’m off to the market and will certainly bring home some Brussels sprouts. I’ll let the birds eat the raw, and will serve mine cooked.