Brussels Sprout Washout


We failed with brussels sprouts this year. We failed bad; like a teamster trying to squeak his 19-ft trailer under a 17-ft viaduct. It was a total disaster. Brussels were supposed to be our primary fall crop but now it’s mid-November and I don’t expect to harvest a single one. It’s a huge disappointment. And we aren’t alone. Almost everyone around here struggled with brussels this year. For most folks, us included, the problem was aphids. October was unusually warm, allowing aphids to survive later than normal. At the same time it was cold enough to chase off all the wasps and ladybugs – the aphids’ primary predators. Unconstrained, the aphids quickly overwhelmed our brussels. There was little we could do.

I love brussels, whether I can grow them or not. Luckily, a couple local growers were able to bring in a crop. (Need I mention they were the most experienced growers at our market?) They were successful while we were not, because they grew their brussels for an earlier harvest date. Like most local growers we shot for an October/November harvest, transplanting our starts in late July. This left us in the field for the October aphid apocalypse. The two successful and experienced growers harvested in September, missing the aphids completely. Well, live and learn. Fortunately, I was able to buy several pounds of fantastic, local brussels from them.


The key to cooking brussels sprouts is to leave them just a bit underdone. Usually we want to cook vegetables until they are fully tender. But with brussels this is a horrible idea (it’s also what everyone’s mother did and why brussels have such an unfortunate reputation). Think al dente, they should have just a little bite.

Personally, I like brussels so much I bought a special pan to cook them in. It was sold as a “grill wok”. I use it to char my brussels over a gas stove. (They are always pre-boiled and shocked before charring.) For me, it’s the charring that makes the dish. It leaves the brussels with a great color and a rich roast flavor. If you aren’t yet a huge brussels fan and don’t want to buy a special pan you can get the same effect in the oven. Here the secret is to go low on the oil and high on the temperature (say 450 until charred, 15 min).


Roast Brussels Sprouts

Possibly my favorite fall recipe


  • 1 lb fresh brussels sprouts
  • 1 lemon
  • chopped garlic
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt


Clean the brussels by butting them, halving them and composting any loose or limp leaves. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a high boil. Dump the brussels into the pot, cover it immediately and boil for 3-4 minutes, until the brussels are tender but still crunchy. Shock the brussels for five minutes in ice water, this locks in a bright green color and prevents over cooking. Toss the brussels with just enough oil to coat. The less the better here. Char the brussels over a gas stove (using a grill wok or perforated sheet pan) or in an oven at 450. When done, the brussels should have an al dente like tooth and be nicely caramelized. Sprinkle the brussels with chopped garlic and season with  juice from 1/2 a lemon and salt to taste. Serve either hot or cold.

2 comments to Brussels Sprout Washout

  • Anna

    Al dente, from the Italian meaning ‘to the tooth’. These are fantastic. Give them a try, seriously, even if you’ve never eaten a good brussels sprout in your life and have an unnatural fear of Sprout Attack. These are unconventional and delicious. Just for fun:

  • Gheda

    Just tried this with a twist which brought back childhood
    memories. Instead of lemon used white wine vinegar and then a
    healthy dose of kosher salt. Nice bit of crunch, offset by the
    acid, like healthy English chips.

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>