History Facts

Why Do We Eat Brussels Sprouts at Christmas?

With Christmas fast approaching, and many of us already enjoying a Christmas meal out with friends, family or work – but there is an item on that festive menu that occurs every year and I’m not talking about the turkey). It is that small green ball, that many children might have cried about or refused to eat, the humble sprout.

When overboiled it can smell like rotten eggs, when undercooked it can be a hard mini cabbage. But when cooked properly, with cream bacon and chestnuts added in, it can be a wonderful addition to any festive menu. But why are sprouts associated with Christmas? Unlike turkey, the origins of which are more keenly researched, sprouts have a more murky past, meaning that it’s harder to truly say why we have sprouts.

They are easy to grow

One of the reasons might simply be because they are so easy to grow. They need an average temperature between 7-24 degrees and can be ready for harvest 90-180 days after planting. What’s more, in the cold winter when we lack sunlight, sprouts are actually good for you. One small sprout contains more vitamin C than an orange.

Whilst easy to grow, there is evidence to suggest that sprouts have been grown in some parts of Europe since the Middle Ages. But they didn’t popular until the 19th Century in Britain. One can assume that the Victorians took great delight in eating a small cabbage, but that’s not something that can be proved, only guessed.

Why do we eat them on Christmas Day?

Whilst there is not a definite answer to this, it seems to all come down to a simple case of timing. We know that sprouts thrive and grow during the winter period and that they became popular in Britain towards the end of the 18th century, which is around the same time that the concept of Christmas Day – as we know it – was ignited.

Let’s also not forget that the modern roast dinner was also in entered around the same time that sprouts were first imported to a large scale and of course there was the 20th century idea to start boosting grocery store marketing campaigns. So love them or loathe them, looks like we’re stuck them every Christmas.

Brussels Sprout Facts… 

  • Originally grown in ancient Rome, sprouts were first recorded in the Brussels region of Belgium (which is where they got their name from). 
  • The largest recorded Brussels sprout weighed an incredible 8.3kg.
  • Brits eat more than any other nation in Europe.
  • There are 110 different varieties.

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