The History of the Brussels Sprout

14 10 2018

A recent Facebook conversation with my niece prompted me to write the following just to get the record straight.


I have never heard anyone say, “Brussels sprouts? Yeh, they’re okay.” Nope, either you love ‘em or, you hate ‘em. Put me in the hate group. I hated them as a kid and later in life, I thought perhaps I would give them another try, thinking my taste may have changed. No, no, no. I hated them even more so than I remembered. On the other hand, I have a niece who will sit bare-butt on a block of ice for as long as you feed her roasted Brussels sprouts. So, what’s the story of this repugnant crucifer?


The original Brussels sprout is native to the Mediterranean region. The Romans grew them even though they hated the putrid taste and weren’t quite sure what to do with them, or even what to call them, so they just kept them until they would begin to rot, like a little ball of kimchi. They tried everything under the Tuscan sun but never could find a way to make them palatable. But, these ball-like whatever-they-weres had potential, or so they thought. It’s like when I empty a glass pickle jar; I don’t know what I’ll use it for but am sure that one day, I’ll need a jar so, I hide it from my wife along with the other 147 empty jars I’ll need one day.


What is This Thing?

For lack of a better name, the common term “jeest” (ancient Hebrew word meaning “thing without a name”) was used to refer to Brussels sprouts. Eventually, Romans discovered if they left the Brussels sprouts out in the sun to dry, over time, and after the stench went away, they would become rock-hard. They were the perfect size to fit into the pocket of a sling such as the one David used to drop Goliath, so, they began to refer to them as stones. First Samuel 17:40 tells us that on his way to fight Goliath, David “…chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in his shepherd’s bag…” Some Bible scholars believe that when facing Goliath, David reached into his bag and accidentally pulled out a Brussels sprout, or “stone” instead of a rock that he found down by the creek.


When the not-so-well-known Greek explorer, Achilleus (meaning “lipless”), traveled north to explore Europe, he took with him a dozen tow sacks filled with these raw uncured vegetables. The Belgians, known for having a voracious appetite and, like the English, a willingness to eat anything, found them to be quite tasty, albeit, a tad bitter.


Famed Belgian botanist Dietger Jones bought all the sprouts Achilleus had and, in his Brussels lab, began a long and tedious cross-breeding process which eventually resulted in what we know today as the Brussels sprout, hence the name. The king of Belgium, King Willy, then passed an edict proclaiming the Brussels sprout as the national vegetable of Brussels demanding, under penalty of death, that all Belgians be required to eat Brussels sprouts with every meal. But not all Belgians found them to be good-they too were in the hate group-and so many opted for the gallows-a quicker and much more merciful death. It was shortly thereafter that an English-born immigrant, Dewayne Sidelinger, the original Duke of Earl, founded a new company he cleverly name Duke’s and created a concoction designed to mask the flavor of Brussels sprouts. Duke’s became the world leader in the manufacture of what would become known as A-1 Sauce, the recipe for which was stolen by food magnate Baldwin Kraft who turned it into a household name.


So, as the late Paul Harvey would say, “And now you know the rest of the story.” Also see:




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