Brussels sprouts and broccoli share more than the letter “b” as the first letter in their name and the color green. These are two of the most hated vegetables in the United States! Even former President Bush once famously said that he isn’t going to eat any more broccoli because he’s the POTUS; if only the rest of us can declare it that way.
And like most things that are hated by many in the population, there are plenty of literature devoted to explaining and exploring the passionate feelings against Brussels sprouts. Of all of them, we have to say that Andy Griffiths said it best when he wrote in his book, Just Disgusting, that Brussels sprouts are green, slimy, moldy, horrible, putrid, and foul, and there’s nothing to love about them. But if he was to eat dessert – custard, which he also hated, as it turned out – then he had to eat five Brussels sprouts.
But why do so many people, from children to adults, hate eating Brussels sprouts? We looked at the possible reasons, most of which scientists have also studied, for such hate and we arrived at the conclusion: You may hate Brussels sprouts now but you can learn to love them given the right circumstances.
Brussels sprouts look like miniature cabbages – so tiny, in fact, that these measure between 0.6 to 1.6 inches in diameter only. These are cute and charming to look at, too, especially if you’re into miniature vegetables like baby carrots and beets. Their green color also evokes health because, after all, these are vegetables filled with nutrients.
But these can also be bitter-tasting so most children and many adults hate them and skip eating them, even when the dish itself looks delicious. The bitter taste lingers in the tongue well after the Brussels sprouts were spit out or swallowed. Some people say that it’s the kind of bitter that immediately evokes the feeling even at the mere sight of the vegetables.
The bitter taste may not actually be your fault. For one thing, the Brussels sprouts may not have been picked at the right time. These should have been picked when the sprouts are still small and young, preferably after a few frosts, for the best taste. These may also have been frozen in route to the supermarket and the freezing temperature resulted in the unpalatable taste.
For another thing, humans are born with an innate dislike for bitter foods and we tend to reject them. Such an innate dislike is apparently a defense mechanism necessary for our survival as a species – for every single plant or animal food in nature with nutrients good for our bodies, about 50 food sources are bitter and poisonous.
Bitter Memories, Too
Many adults also haven’t grown out of their dislike for bitter foods for one reason or another. Since Brussels sprouts are bitter when harvested or cooked incorrectly, it’s no wonder that these vegetables aren’t popular in restaurants than, say, mashed potatoes and French fries.
The dislike likely stemmed from a childhood experience that reinforced the idea that, indeed, Brussels sprouts are bitter-tasting. Ask yourself: Was there a specific event or a series of related events during my childhood that put me off from eating Brussels sprouts again? You may just come upon something, such as your parents telling you and your siblings to eat your Brussels sprouts or else there will be no dessert or no television.
Don’t blame your parents either. They, too, may have had the same experience with their parents but they learned to grow Brussels sprouts or they have outgrown their aversion to bitter foods. You, in turn, have form a close association between the negative taste, smell and texture of cooked Brussels sprouts and the unpleasant experience.
Even as many of your colleagues say that Brussels sprouts are delicious, you’re not wont to eat them because of the unpleasant experience.
Smell Isn’t Agreeable
Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable, a classification that gives then a distinct smell. Think of phrases like “rotting cabbage” and that’s how people who dislike them describe these miniature cabbages.
While the sense of smell may not seem like an integral part of liking or disliking vegetables, it does! While the tongue, the organ of taste, can only detect five distinct flavors – salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and savory (umami) – the nose can actually smell more than 100,00 different scents! Our noses may be tame compared to, say, dogs and cats, we can rely on them to detect undesirable odors coming from food sources including Brussels sprouts.
The bottom line: You don’t have to beat yourself, so to speak, over your intense dislike for Brussels sprouts. Your brain may not be cooperating even as your rational self knows that Brussels sprouts are good for your health.
Fortunately, you can learn to love Brussels sprouts and it can start by ordering the caramelized Brussels sprouts at Umami Burger! Mixed with bacon lardon, roasted garlic and shallots, glazed carrots, and truffle glaze, the Brussels sprouts are so delicious you will forget that you ever hated them.