Brussels Sprouts (Brassica oleracea, of the Gemmifera group) originated in Brussels, Belgium in the sixteenth century and like their relative broccoli, were developed from wild cabbage. Brussels sprouts are formed of twenty to eighty baby cabbages growing in spiral formation, close together. This member of the Brassicaceae (Mustard) Family is related to cauliflower and radish. The Latin name Brassica comes from the Celtic bresic and the species name oleracea means "a garden vegetable used in cooking." Gemmifera means, "diamond maker" as this vegetable was once reputed to enhance mental abilities.
Brussels sprouts are alkalinizing, antioxidant and liver stimulating. They have a special affinity for the pancreas. They have been used to remedy acidosis, arteriosclerosis, catarrh, constipation, bleeding gums, and high cholesterol. Their high sulfur content makes them warming. They are a good source of beta-carotene, vitamin B6, folic acid, C, flavonoids calcium, iron, and phosphorus. They also contain indoles that are believed to prevent breast cancer by blocking the activity of estrogens that contribute to tumor growth. They are also considered preventative to colon cancer and promoting to good bowel health, due to their high fiber content. They also contain sulforaphanes, which blacks carcinogens from damaging healthy cells.
Select firm, compact bright green Brussels sprouts, as puffy ones tend to taste bland. Smaller ones, less than one and a half inches in diameter tend to have a better flavor. Their flavor improves after a frost, so they are popular as a fall and winter vegetable. Young tender sprouts can be enjoyed raw, sliced into salads or used as crudités.
Some may find them to be gas and bloating inducing, especially if one suffers from constipation, however this is due to their cleansing activity.