Brussels sprouts, or Brassica oleracea gemmifera, are related to other better-known vegetables in the Brassica genus like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. They are part of the cruciferae or mustard family, so known because of a four-part flower in the shape of a cross.
Sprouts were believed to have been cultivated in Italy in Roman times, and possibly as early as the 1200s in Belgium. The modern Brussels sprout that we are familiar with was first cultivated in large quantities in Belgium (hence the name “Brussels” sprouts) as early as 1587, with their introduction into the U.S. in the 1800s. They were grown in California in the early 1900s, with the first central coast plantings in the 1920s. With the development of the frozen food industry in the 1940s, Brussels sprouts production in California increased to its highest levels over the next 20 years. As production techniques have improved, and as foreign imports have increased, there are currently less than 3000 acres of the tiny cabbages currently being produced in California. This acreage supplies the majority of the U.S. production from June through January, with nearly all of the acreage located in the central coast region, from San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and Monterey counties. Brussels sprouts are also exported to Canada, as they are more popular there than in the U.S.
Brussels sprouts are a very good source of many essential vitamins, fiber, and folate. They are especially high in Vitamin C. They, along with their other cruciferous cousins, have been shown to have some very beneficial effects against certain types of cancer. Brussels sprouts are incredibly nutritious vegetable that offers protection from vitamin A deficiency, bone loss, iron-deficiency anemia, and believed to protect from cardiovascular diseases and colon and prostate cancers.
Brussel sprouts are cool season vegetables. In general, sprouts are harvested when their lower buds mature and reach about an inch in size. Fresh sprouts should feature firm, compact, and dark green. Avoid sprouts that featuring loose leaf, yellowish and light in hand. Fresh sprouts keep well in the refrigerator for up to a day or two. Remove any damaged or discolored outer leaves and store fresh unwashed sprouts in plastic bags/zip pouches in the vegetable container in the refrigerator.
Source image 1: http://acozykitchen.com/maple-balsamic-brussels-sprouts/
Source image 2: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/evolution/6019200/Scientists-discover-that-Neanderthals-hated-Brussel-sprouts.html