Brussels sprouts — you either love ’em or hate ’em. As a kid, you had to be bribed to even look at one. Then you grew up, and now you find them on virtually every menu in every major city. Maybe you even realized that they’re actually pretty tasty — especially when fried to crispy perfection.
But really, most of us don’t think about Brussels sprouts much at all. Certainly, there’s rarely a reason to think about where they come from.
I had never thought about it before, but I think I would have pictured them growing individually out of the ground, like tiny cabbages. This is not accurate. And I’m not alone — the entire internet is suddenly freaking out en masse over photos of Brussels sprouts growing on a vine? Tree? Thing?
What Even Are These?!
What is that? It looks like you could pick it up and knock someone over the head with it, and it would hurt. Maybe vegetables aren’t always good for you.
As it turns out, Brussels sprouts are a kind of cabbage, and they grow on long, thick stalks that grow out of the ground and look like strange little trees. The part of the plant that we eat are the “buds.”
The buds are removed from the stalk, along with the top couple of leaf layers that were exposed to dirt and other contaminants. They’re best when they’re roasted or sautéed to bring out the flavor. Overcooking them causes a strong odor, just like with overcooked cabbage.
The stalks can also grow huge green leaves. This is seriously the weirdest plant I’ve ever seen. They look like very short and extra bumpy palm trees that you can shave for food.
Everybody Freak Out!
Naturally, people are having a hard time handling this utterly unpredictable phenomenon. It can be mind-blowing to find out where your food comes from, even if it’s your least-favorite food.
Some people were apparently made physically uncomfortable at the sight of Brussels sprouts on the stalk. Others declared that the sight made them crave the veggie. It takes all kinds?
Apparently, some people already knew about this because their local supermarkets sell Brussels sprouts on the stalk. I’ve only ever seen them sold in piles of buds, even at farmers markets, so I’m not sure where these supermarkets are in the world.
It's Not Just Brussels Sprouts
The food origins shock doesn’t stop with Brussels sprouts, however. Did you think that pineapples grew on trees? I sure did, but it turns out they grow out of these weird short bush things that do not look like they could support a full-grown pineapple.
What are those, apples? Bell peppers? No, they’re freaking cashews! What do they do with the part that the nut grows out of?
Many of us already know that peanuts aren’t actually nuts. But did you know that they grow underground, on the roots of a leafy plant? Who decided to try eating those?
Meanwhile, artichokes look like gorgeous jungle flowers in their natural state. It makes me want to start growing artichokes all over the yard. Why bother growing inedible flowers?
Brussels Sprouts: Weird but Beautiful
A lot of fruits and vegetables grow in strange ways, but nothing beats the Brussels sprout in terms of utter alien-ness. Just look at these things. Nature is so freaking weird.
At the same time, there’s something beautiful about these freaky little trees that look like they’re riddled with green tumors. Perhaps we all need to be a little more connected to the food we eat.
At the very least, knowing all the weird ways our food grows could be used to blow the minds of our less-informed friends. Seeing people’s reactions to the Brussels sprout trees never gets old.