Brussels sprouts, like a certain comedian we could name, get no respect. They find their way to the top of a lot of people's "yuck" lists -- most unjustly, in our opinion. Sprouts that are over-cooked or over-age have given them a bad reputation, but at their best, the jewel-like miniature cabbages have a tender crunch and delightful mild flavor.
As the name suggests, Brussels sprouts are believed to have been developed in Belgium, probably during the Middle Ages. Most of the sprouts found in today's markets, though, come from California. The vitamin C-rich vegetable is in season from fall until the return of warm weather.
When buying fresh, look for compact, firm sprouts (the smaller the better) with a fresh green color.
Eat your sprouts as soon as possible after you buy them.
To help Brussels sprouts cook quickly and evenly, many cooks make a shallow cross-cut at the base of the stem. The vegetable is then steamed, sauteed or boiled -- not too enthusiastically, though, as prolonged boiling steals flavor and vitamins. While sprouts are popularly served with a butter-based sauce, here's a recipe for an unusual (and easy) Brussels sprout salad, as sold at the Hay Day farm market in Westport, Conn. (From "The Hay Day Cookbook" by Maggie Stearns and Sallie Y. Williams, Atheneum, 1986.)