What Are Christmas Sprouts?

B. Chisholm

Christmas sprouts are actually Brussels sprouts. Traditionally served boiled, they earned the name Christmas sprouts because they always formed part of the Christmas feast with turkey, gammon, roasted potatoes and other vegetables. They are, in fact, eaten all year around and, when cooked well, can be a delicious vegetable to add to any meal.

Roasted potatoes are often served with Christmas sprouts.
Roasted potatoes are often served with Christmas sprouts.

The Brussels sprout, which resembles a miniature cabbage, was originally eaten in Europe. They are thought to be high in glucosinolates, which are believed to have anti-cancer properties. They are also high in vitamin C, vitamin K and fiber.

A Christmas tree with presents.
A Christmas tree with presents.

It is easy to overcook Christmas sprouts and this has earned them a reputation of being a rather soggy and overpowering vegetable. The longer they are cooked, the more powerful they become and the more they lose their favored green color. Shorter cooking times make for a fresher, tastier dish.

There are plenty of recipes for Christmas sprouts, each with their own additions to enhance their flavor. Many cooks add bacon, which adds a smoky flavor, pecan nuts or a combination of the two. Chestnuts also add a delicious, nutty flavor and are a favorite at Christmas time. Instead of boiling them, steaming or roasting the sprouts can result in a different taste. Whatever cooking method is used, it is essential not to overcook them.

Traditional Christmas dinner, usually eaten on Christmas Eve, 24 December, or Christmas Day, 25 December, is a feast of food, including Christmas sprouts. This especially applies to the northern hemisphere, where Christmas is in mid-Winter and a large, hot meal is appreciated. It normally consists of roast turkey, although other poultry like duck or chicken may also be eaten, accompanied in some cases by roast gammon, pork or lamb.

Roast or mashed potatoes with vegetables, traditionally carrots and Brussels sprouts, and gravy round off the meal. Cranberry sauce is traditionally served with the turkey, which may also be stuffed with chestnut stuffing. The meal is followed by traditional Christmas fruit pudding which may be served lit and accompanied by brandy butter. Trifle is also traditionally served at Christmas time.

While the Christmas sprouts earned their name by tradition, the Brussels sprout is actually a healthy and delicious vegetable for all year. The trick is in the cooking method. Gently cooked and served either plain, with a little butter or with tasty additions such as nuts or bacon, Brussels sprouts can be a delicious and nutritious side dish.

Roasted duck is a traditional Christmas food in some households.
Roasted duck is a traditional Christmas food in some households.

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