Brussels Sprouts Used To Taste A Lot Different. Here's Why

Everyone has those traumatic memories of Brussels sprouts as a kid. If you had to choke down poorly-seasoned, boiled sprouts in your youth and came back to them as an adult, you probably couldn't believe the difference. According to NPR, the vegetable saw a renaissance in the 2000s, with a ton of press launched at all the great ways to prepare the veggie. This taste change isn't only in your head — Brussels sprouts have gone through a major transformation that goes well beyond their press image. 

According to My Recipes, Dutch scientist Hans van Doorn pinpointed the exact chemical that caused Brussels sprouts to taste so bitter in the 1990s. Once this particular cause of bitter flavor could get identified, breeders began developing new strains of Brussels sprouts that didn't contain the bitter chemical—glucosinolate. This chemical, present in broccoli, cauliflower, and other cruciferous vegetables, makes this variety of plants less appealing to animals, insects, and humans due to the overpowering, unpleasant flavor and acts as a natural deterrent. Once we knew what chemical to remove, breeders could introduce new varieties of the sprout to the market and a whole new world of flavor opened up.

A new Brussels sprout for a new era

Not everyone could detect the same levels of bitterness in the old version of Brussels sprouts. According to Better Homes and Gardens, some people react stronger to glucosinolates than others, meaning some of us got the full bitter taste of Brussels sprouts that others might not have experienced. If you have a predisposition that makes you taste the full brunt of glucosinolates, the new version of Brussels sprouts would taste very different than the previous varieties. The mellow, new versions of the plants can agree with any eater, and once you prepare them just right, you don't have to have flashbacks to the terrible Brussels sprouts of childhood.

Next time you want to try a new veggie, take the plunge and whip up a recipe with the new-and-improved version of Brussels sprouts that have come just in time. Have no fear enduring this vegetable any longer and don't feel like you might accidentally subject your own children to this vegetable that traumatized us in the past. Start looking for new recipes today and rediscover this vegetable on your terms!