the family brussels-sprout tradition

Marion Roach Smith and Margaret Roach with homegrown Brussels sproutsMY TINY FAMILY’S GIANT TRADITION: Brussels sprouts! I bring over the homegrown, still-on-the-stalk, bigger-is-better sprouts to my sister’s each Thanksgiving, and we have at them, assisted enthusiastically by my brother-in-law (and pushed around the plate by my niece). That’s baby-sister Marion and a mock-terrified me showing off a recent holiday harvest–just one image of many in another long family tradition: taking crazy photos.  Individual crustless pumpkin pies and pureed sweet-potato soup with greens might be on the menu, too:

Roasted Brussels sproutsBrussels sprouts are delightful just roasted (it’s easy to roast vegetables, like this), but lately I have become addicted to a “salad” at nearby Crossroads Food Shop. Chef David Wurth has combined halved roasted sprouts with roasted sweet potato wedges, tossed with walnuts, and happily in a chili-lime juice vinaigrette. (I’m going to try using some chili paste as one ingredient in a pinch over here, but the Crossroads master says he toasted dried Ancho chilies, shook out the seeds, soaked then boiled and let them sit till really soft, then blended the remains with some mustard, cider vinegar, lime juice and olive oil. If only he’d offer cooking lessons on the menu…)

Individual crustless pumpkin pie, as pumpkin custardI eat a lot of winter squash simply split and roasted, too. Slightly more festive, though, for finishing off the holiday meal: individual pumpkin custards, like little crustless pies that even a full-ish tummy can make room for. The recipe.

Anna Thomas's greens and sweet potato soup with sageWill this Thursday’s meal start with soup, or not? In case we decide it should, I have a big pot of my favorite from “Love Soup” author Anna Thomas. It’s her Green Soup With Sweet Potatoes and Sage that in my kitchen gets to be more like Sweet Potato Soup with Greens and Sage—you know how that goes, when a borrowed recipe evolves and becomes your own? How to make it.

(Photo of me and my sister by Erica Berger.)

  1. Tibs says:

    Can’t do Brussels sprouts. I’ve tried. I’ve raised them under the theory that anything home grown is better. Still don’t like ’em. Like everything else in that family: broccoli, cabbage. I did have some pickled sprouts once. Tolerable.

  2. Johanna says:

    LOVE Brussels sprouts! One of the reasons I stay near home and have Thanksgiving with friends is that when I bring roasted Brussels sprouts with toasted hazelnuts, everyone there says “oh, I love Brussels sprouts!” instead of what my siblings say — “ick!” The other reason is that snow on the interstate seems to be particularly likely during Thanksgiving week. But really, it’s the Brussels sprouts.

  3. dianthap says:

    I’d not been a fan, but then had them carmelized at a local German restaurant, and they were fabulous! I’m going to try making it myself this week.

  4. Jen says:

    We had some spare brussel sprouts that had already been blanched (didn’t fit in the cast iron skillet when we made sprouts with bacon earlier this week), so when we were scrounging for dinner options this evening, we decided to quarter them and stir fry them with tofu. Worked great!

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Jen. Good idea! (And I like tofu.) They are so sweet, aren’t they — but sweet tasting, and sweet looking, those tiny heads. :)

      Hi, Dianthap. I agree — that flavor! Nice to see you both; thanks for saying hello.

  5. Sarah says:

    I have yet to plant Brussels sprouts in my USDA Zone 9b garden. While interning on a small organic farm in Santa Cruz years ago, I was told it’s very tricky to grow Brussels sprouts organically. One of these days I’ll give it a try. I’ve never understood why this Brassica has such a bad reputation. Yum!

  6. I love growing Brussels sprouts because they’re just so darn quirky, but I’ve not developed a taste for them. I’ve had them prepared in all sorts of ways, but they just have an odd taste to me. I’m a “super-taster,” so it could be that I taste something that the majority of people don’t. I don’t know…

    Love your expression in the photo, Margaret, and the photo is just priceless. Happy Thanksgiving to you!

  7. Teri Chace says:

    This is a wonderful Brussels sprouts recipe…a small amount of sweetness from real maple syrup is just what they need, IMO! (Recipe from Runners World magazine; which reminds me…uh…exercise…)

    Clean up (wash, dry) about 2 cups of sprouts…cut in half…toss in baking dish.
    Whisk in a bowl: 2 tbsp maple syrup, 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 tsp dijon mustard, 1/2 salt-and-pepper.

    Drizzle over sprouts, toss to coat. Bake 20 minutes to roast.

    MMM! :)
    Happy T-giving, Margaret, to you and yours! :)

  8. Burndett Andres says:

    This Thanksgiving, Margaret, in addition to many, many, many other things, I am thankful for you and this FABULOUS blog. You’re a blessing! Thanks for taking the time to share so many wonderful posts all year long. XOXOXO

  9. Marj says:

    LOVE br. sprouts, but have tried for 3 years to grow these things without much success…just get little pea-sized things at best, even though I have tried others’ tricks!
    Please print more tricks to growing what seems like a no-brainer – I am determined to grow giants like shown here!! I can grow broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower ok enough.

  10. Leslie says:

    I’ve done brussels sprouts as Teri Chace does and they’re delish; also peeling the leaves off and sautéing. Thanks for posting what a successful harvest *should* look like. Trying for the third time this year and learn something each attempt. Apparently cabbage butterflies come from miles around and things were better this year companion planted with onions that overwintered (zone 5b) & had a head start to develop and diminish the impact of the pests. As an aside, sadly this is the only butterfly we saw this year in our garden.

  11. Jo says:

    Here’s the tip that finally allowed me to get larger sprouts. A few weeks before first (predicted for your area) frost, break off the top of the plant (the growing point). Causes the plant to redirect its energy into ripening & sizing the sprouts. Works with tomatoes too. I imagine if you live somewhere with a longer growing season you could stagger the harvest by succession topping a few plants at a time.

    Now my question. .. freezing sprouts has never gone that well for me. I blanch them first. The texture just isn’t that great. Still works for soups & casseroles though. Any freezing or longer – term (more than a few weeks) storage ideas for me? (I do know you can leave them right in the garden right into the snow – how great is that?? :)

    1. Jo says:

      B & all,

      See my original reply on 11/26, above, for a key tip on how to get larger sprouts. Also, as Margaret notes, variety makes a difference & growing conditions can, too. My 120-day varieties rarely size up in time even with topping; the 90-day varieties are usually fine once topped but even then size will vary bec of the variety.


  12. Anne E Hock (annielizzie says:

    Hi Margaret. I think the B Sprouts I plated up for my kids ended up on the rug….but now with this terrific group of recipies, I can do a better job. now. I just made a cranberry/cherry chutney for Thanksgiing (at someone else’s house).
    I also plan to make galettes with mixed fruit. How is that for courageous!
    When is the cookbook coming, Margaret??? Say hello to Marion for an old
    Douglaston friend. I hope you all have a wonderful and loving Thanksgiving.Anne

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Anne, and thank you! Thanks for the picture, too, and for staying in touch.

      And Barbara — I grew the sprouts here in my garden, and I have no idea why some years I get monsters and some not. Of course different varieties can achieve different heights/sprout diameter, but then there is the weather. Any heatspells or worse, dryspells, can check the growth so you have to keep after the watering diligently, for instance. I think that really big one I am holding was a very successful crop of the variety ‘Diablo’.

  13. Carole Clarin says:

    So that’s Marion! Always enjoy listening to the questions she asks on Robin Hood radio. About Brussels sprouts, they seem to be the vegetable of choice among my friends and family and I’ll be roasting them with butternut squash and onions to add to my friends’ thanksgiving dinner.

  14. Beverly, zone 6, eastern PA says:

    Incredibly coincidental… today’s dinner menu consisted of sauteed Brussels sprouts with raisins, bacon and chicken stock… and for dessert, individual pumpkin custards. And I did not read your blog first !

  15. Sharon says:

    To anyone who says they don’t like brussels sprouts – try roasting them until slightly browned with just a sheen of olive oil to get the salt and pepper to stick.

    My mom always hated brussels sprouts so much that I never even had one until I was an adult, but actually WANTED me to leave leftovers of the roasted sprouts I made last year.

  16. jean tate says:

    I especially love your expression Margaret, with Brussels sprouts!
    Messages from you are such a joy, you manage often to hit on
    exactly what I’m thinking about. This time pumpkin custard.

    Trying to remember how to overwinter a Fig…?
    Happy TG to you. all the best, jean

    ps I AM already on your email list

    1. margaret says:

      Thanks, Jean. FYI, you can always search for fig or overwinter fig in the search box top right (or anything else you want to find) and that will deliver it up! Those were some scary giant Brussels so I had to look terrified. :)

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