There's a very good reason that so few farmers are willing to bring purple Brussels sprouts to market. They're a pain to grow. But what makes them a pain also entices customers -- they lack the cabbage funk of your standard green Brussels sprout and have an almost broccoli-like sweetness That sweetness brings all the aphids and caterpillars to the yard. They also seem to defy market standardization, growing multiple sizes and shapes of sprouts along the thick stalks. Farmers market or no, uniformity sells.
It should come as no surprise to anyone tuned into the farmers market community that the farmer willing to take all this on just to provide an interesting, colorful and delectable crop to market is Alex Weiser, head of Weiser Family Farms. The pile of purple buds fits in perfectly with the usual rainbow of potatoes and carrots, but the sprouts won't be around much longer.
Spring comes too soon for some crops -- flowers are popping on confused local fruit trees already -- and we've got maybe one or maybe two weeks left for these. You can find them at the Santa Monica (Wednesday and Saturday), Venice (Friday), Topanga (Friday), Pasadena (Saturday), and the Long Beach, Beverly Hills, Claremont, Hollywood and Mar Vista markets on Sunday.
Like all Brussels sprouts, the purple variety's gene lines dive neatly into Belgium. A Dutch botanist managed a tricky pairing between a purple cabbage and a regular green Brussels sprout in the 1940s, resulting in a purple veined sprout with some of the red cabbage's salad sweetness. It is very cold-hardy and sweetens up with frost, although the weather this past week has been on the warm side.
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Avoid overcooking -- the purple sprout's leaves aren't as tightly packed as the regular green sprout, so dial down your cooking time. The purple shade will fade with heat but not disappear entirely. Save the maple syrup for the greens and stay simple to allow this variety's natural flavor to come through.
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