Eating Brussels Sprouts Stalks—Really!
Autumn is my favorite season. I love the colorful leaves, wearing jeans and sweaters, crisp, sunny days, and fall veggies. Brussels sprouts are some of my favorite and I love buying them still on the stalk. They look like some medieval weapon! I don’t buy them on the stalk to beat anyone with or just because it’s cool, I like that I don’t have to trim the ends of the individual sprouts that get hard and discolored in storage at the grocery store, and there’s no wasteful plastic mesh bag to deal with. Plus, they’re usually much fresher on the stalk, lending to better flavor. Brussels sprouts tend to get a stronger flavor when stored, which is probably why a lot of people don’t like Brussels sprouts—they’re eating old, strong-flavored ones.
Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable, in the cabbage, cauliflower, and kale family. They look like miniature cabbages, which is what the French call them, choux de bruxelles, “Brussels cabbages.” Thomas Jefferson actually introduced Brussels sprouts to the US in 1812. While Brussels sprouts are super nutritious, full of vitamins A, C, K, folate, fiber, potassium, magnesium, and thiamine, their true claim to fame comes from their antioxidant and phytonutrient content, which has the ability to kill more cancer cells than any other vegetable (as noted by Michael Greger, MD of NutritionFacts.org and Jo Robinson of Eating on the Wild Side)! These are vegetables that you do really want to eat.
I posted the picture above on my Instagram last week and one of my followers, green_mama_doc, inquired if I’d ever eaten the stalk. Well I hadn’t, but oddly enough, I was wondering if there was something I could do with it on a zero waste perspective. I love to eat broccoli stems, in fact, I prefer them over the flowery ends, so I was intrigued by this. I did a little research online and found only a couple sources that talked about braising the stalks for hours to cook the core, which they scooped out and spread on bread—like a kind of vegan “bone marrow.” Now I’ve never eaten bone marrow and it certainly does not appeal to me, but I’m all-in to use scraps and reduce food waste!
So I decided to try cooking the stalk in my Instant Pot because I didn’t really want to babysit a braise. I added 2 cups of vegetable stock I’d made from scraps to the Instant Pot and then set to work on cutting the Brussels stalk into chunks that would fit.
The stalk is really tough! I was able to cut the top section fairly easily, but none of my knives would cut through the larger sections, and I’d recently had my knives sharpened! I tried sawing with a serrated bread knife, which helped deepen the score line, but it didn’t go through.
After scoring the stalk all the way around, I just broke it over the edge of my counter.
You can see there is a large pale core in the center of the stalk. It looks a lot like a broccoli stem. I didn’t try to peel this because of all the nubs where the leaf stems and sprouts had attached. And, I wouldn’t recommend this because of what I discovered after the stalks were cooked.
I added the chunks to my Instant Pot with the stock and set it to High Pressure for 45 minutes. The notes I’d seen on braising the stalks had said to braise for 2-3 hours, so I figured 45 minutes might do it.
When time was up, I did a quick pressure release because I figured it’d been in there a long time and I was anxious to see how it worked!
The stalks looked and smelled like cooked Brussels sprouts—I know, duh! And the outside of the stalk was soft, including the leaf stems.
In that vein, I experimented using the braised Brussels stalk core and skin in making a Mock
Artichoke and Potato Gratin. I sauteed some onion and garlic until soft, peeled a mix of potatoes I had from the garden and sliced them 1/4-inch thick on the mandolin, and made a mixture of soy milk and cheesy sauce I had leftover from making mac’n’cheez earlier in the week. I poured a little bit of the cheezy mixture on the bottom of a baking dish, layered the potatoes, onion/garlic mixture, braised Brussels stalk pulp and skin, poured the rest of the cheezy milk mixture on top, covered it, and popped into a preheated 400 degree oven for two hours.
It is delicious! And, if you didn’t say anything, no one would realize it wasn’t artichokes! So amazing!
Have you tried Brussels sprouts stalks? What did you think? How did you use them?
Cindy Thompson, MS, is a certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator; an American Council on Exercise certified Health Coach, Peer Fitness Trainer, and Fitness Nutrition Specialist; Tilth Alliance Soil and Water Steward; 5 Gyres Ambassador; and retired fire captain and paramedic. She provides health and lifestyle coaching at Trimazing! Vegan Lifestyle & Health Coaching. Cindy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.