Real food, in season: brussels sprouts

Off the top of your head, can you name what’s in season right now?

When we enter a supermarket or a grocery store nowadays, we have access to anything at any time. The result is that most of us are hard pressed to say when things are pulled from the ground or off the trees.

Today, this knowledge –– which was once a given, particularly to previous generations who did not have today’s luxury of choice –– is wavering. We are more and more disconnected from where our food comes from and when it grows.

In the United States, 87 percent of us fail to eat enough vegetables. To discuss seasonality then can seem like a moot point when our general efforts should be put into consuming more fruits and vegetables, no matter what the season and no matter where they come from. But we can charge ahead on both accounts, because having a better understanding of seasonality can also help us to eat better.

As we come out of winter and gently ease into warmer months, there is much to look forward to. Spring abundance will eventually lead to the glory of summer, full of fresh fruits, berries and vegetables, the winter root vegetable season but a distant memory.

But we’re not quite yet there. March is largely a month of transition, which means that now is the chance to take advantage of the dwindling winter produce. Brussels sprouts are a perfect example. In Washington, March is the sign of the end of the season for these brassicas. The bright green bulbs look like mini cabbages, which is not so surprising given that they hail from the same family.

While older varieties may go back as far as Roman times, brussels sprouts as we know them have their roots in the 16th century, with the first written description of the vegetable dating to 1587.

Despite their history, for many brussels sprouts have a bad name; they have even won the title of “most hated vegetable.” That can usually be traced to a fateful meal when they were overcooked, limp, slimy and devoid of flavor.

But brussels sprouts don’t have to be treated that way, so don’t miss out on this fiber-filled vegetable that’s an excellent source of vitamin C (more than an orange, in fact). Serving them raw helps you to avoid the risk of overcooking them, and brussels sprouts can be sliced thinly, tossed with vinaigrette and served as a salad. Add some chopped apple and toasted walnuts for sweetness and texture.

Roasting them is an easy go-to recipe, but you can also fry them in hot oil for a crispy appetizer that’s worthy to pair with a cold beer on a Friday night. You can also cut off the bottom of each brussels sprouts, so that the leaves separate, toss them in olive oil and bake into chips; a healthy and guilt-free snack. They can even go on a pizza.

Give brussels sprouts a chance this month. They’ll help you get that recommended dose of vegetables, and maybe, come late fall, you might just find yourself craving them when they’re back in season again.

Anna Brones is a writer and cookbook author born and raised on the Key Peninsula. More of her food writing can be found at foodieunderground.com.

In Season