Like a good number of crops, particularly those in the brassica family, brussels sprouts benefit greatly from a good frost to rid them of the bitter taste they may otherwise have. A short article in Horticulture Magazine's May 2008 Mid Atlantic Region addition points out that commercially grown brussels sprouts are often grown in areas that never receive a frost and there for always taste bitter. The article states that brussels sprouts should mature right before the first frost date. And suggest two 90 day varieties, 'Oliver' and 'Jade Cross'. Our frost date here is about April 18th.
So while fall is right time for planting brussels sprouts, spring is the right time for eating them!
A freshly harvested spring sprout is great boiled till tender and served simply with butter and a little salt and pepper. For those who like to mix it up here is one of my favorite recipes for Brussels Sprouts that makes even those bitter sprouts taste great. Between prepping the sprouts and the olives this recipe does take a little bit of time, but it's well worth the effort. Even my husband who previously refused to eat any Brussels sprouts loves this recipe.
Sauteed Brussels Sprout Leaves with Green Olives, Garlic, and Parmesan Cheese.
Makes 4 -6 servings (I'd say 4 servings is closer to the truth because of the yummy factor.)
3Tablespoons Olive Oil
3Brussels Sprout leaves -About 12 Large Brussels sprouts (cut the hard base off the bottom of each sprout so you can remove the outermost leaves, then cut the base again allowing for more leaves to be removed continue this process until all the green leaves have been removed and only a small yellow center remains. You should have about 8 cups worth of leaves. Discard the center portion and rinse the leaves carefully to remove any grit.)Green Olives ( I use the Krinos brand of Whole Green unpitted olives in a pepperocini brine. I love these olives and their slightly spicy flavor. I also always go for the olives with pits still intact because I find they have much better texture and, perhaps therefore, flavor as well. So I carefully pit and quarter each olive, which doesn't take much time once you get used to it.)
Lemon Juice Approximately the juice of 1 half a lemon squeezed over the leaves while they cook Or 2 tablespoons.
Freshly minced garlic (About 3-4 medium cloves)
Fresh Ground Black Pepper to taste (add while sauteing. )
Parmesan (Freshly grated, finely over the dish and tossed in just before serving. I don't have a measurement for this I just eyeball it and taste it.)
Heat the oil over medium heat. Toss in the greens with olives. Saute about 1 minute. Add the garlic and lemon juice and black pepper and Saute just about 2 minutes more!!! Add the Parmesan, toss well and serve. Those olives and the Parmesan are salty so I advise not salting this dish before serving. I have made that mistake out of habit before.
However you choose to prepare them, early spring is the best time to enjoy them. I regret that I can't give a good local source for brussels sprouts. I grew my first small batch this year at home, but would love to know if there were any out there at markets that I haven't seen.