Brussels sprouts at Christmas: a crisis update

What’s the latest crisis in Britain? A super-pest, the diamondback moth, attacked this year’s British brussels sprout crop and supermarkets are struggling to keep their shelves stocked with this all-important Christmas vegetable.

What will become of us all, my friends?

And this isn’t only a Christmas issue. It seems people have taken to using brussels sprouts out of season by adding them to smoothies and salads and stir fries. Next year, we’ll start seeing them in cakes and cookies. And as a nice green layer in a trifle. They’ll taste terrible, but won’t they be pretty? And hey, they’re good for you. Mmmm. Eat your dessert, kids, and you can have some main dish.

If you’re not British enough to know what a trifle is, it involves whipped cream and custard and fruit and something cakey and something else alcoholish. Unless all the ingredients except the whipped cream have been replaced with other things, such as jelly, which is Jello, instead of the custard and orange juice instead of the alcohol and brussels sprouts instead of fruit. Once you start all that, you might as well replace the whipped cream with shaving cream. I mean, why not? It’s cheaper. I think. I haven’t done a price comparison. Anyway, in its natural state, trifle is sublime. When you start swapping ingredients, you start to lose sublimity. Or is that sublimosity?

I confess, I actually like brussels sprouts. But that’s not the point, is it? (she said, following the British tradition of making a question out of a statement by asking listeners who know less about the topic if it’s accurate.) Liking brussels sprouts doesn’t mean I’d like them as a smoothie ingredient anymore than it means I’d want to make them into a tee shirt.

For several years running, I took part in a parade that included a small group of people dressed entirely in kale. And, I’d guess, a few hidden bits of string. Or glue. The year it was hot enough to wilt the kale, it was touch and go which would last longer, the kale or the parade.

Yes, I have had an interesting life.

If you can’t think why this shortage of brussels sprouts constitutes a crisis, I’ll have to refer you to an older post on the role of brussels sprouts in the traditional British Christmas meal. And since this is all so important, to another one of the same topic. Bizarrely enough, they’re among my most popular posts.

Whatever you celebrate or don’t celebrate, I wish you a good one. And I’ll stop adding short extra posts any day now. I know you have real lives calling to you. It’s just that this was too important to skip.

63 thoughts on “Brussels sprouts at Christmas: a crisis update

  1. Apparently, only 48% of Britons are happy to have anything to do with Brussels in the first place. The fact that the vegetable’s partial demise comes as the result of a European immigrant will only please the other 52% and the right wing headlines will rage that the EU has sent this army of foreign pests to make sure that we really have no Brussels of any sort if we are going to leave. Probably.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Well now at least I understand the Brexit vote–it was an attempt to clear Britain’s tables of–okay, I’m stuck here. A foreign invader? A benign effort to keep the nation fed during the cold months? Oh dearie me, these things are so complicated.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. If I hear one person whinging about what they do or do not have on their plate on Christmas Day, I will frogmarch them to Syria and leave them there! I saw a news report yesterday about the looming postal strike and how it will stop thousands of people getting cards and presents in time for Christmas Day. Oh boo hoo – what a cruel world we live in. In my day, we were happy with a little orange, a walnut and a lump of coal in our stockings…oh wait, that’s my mum’s Christmas speech. 😀🎄

    Liked by 1 person

    • Isn’t it funny how our mothers’ speeches make more sense once we’re roughly their ages? And I’m with you on Syria. And Yemen. And the refugee camps. And on and on and on. And here we sit. The things we do are so small.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I also like brussel sprouts, but do not want them smoothied or in a trifle. No.
    I hope the Brits can pull through this crisis, as I have had to make it through harrowing times like when tomatoes and spinach were removed from markets due to poisonous bacteria. Trying times, but easier when you have allies. And canned food.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I haven’t noticed many sprout stalks on our California market shelves either this year. What a disaster!! NOT!! Actually, for me, it means the coast is clear and the table just may be empty of those tiny cabbages at the homes of my English friends here. I can relax. I can even go there for dinner. Of course, this is all based on the fantasy that the hungry little immigrant moth has winged its way over the pond and over the continent. These days I’m happy to find a tiny moment of joy and mirth in just about anything to avoid facing what is happening to my country. If we Californians build our own big wall and/or secede, I will personally escort the moth through the gate to avoid any more attempts to appreciate the little green globes.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I understand the impulse to hide from what’s going on in the country. In the world. or–well, that isn’t actually what you said. You said “find a tiny moment of joy and mirth.” Boy, do we need ’em. I have, at least, gotten to the point where I’m willing to read the papers again. Might as well know what’s coming at us.


      • Yes, I’m reading again too but I still can’t watch. Anything beyond cute kitten stories or dog visits hospital patients on tv news and I’m off to Netflix in a flash. I couldn’t even listen to BBC Radio 4 for a month. My thoughts are dark as I wait to see what is coming. A sprout crisis is the perfect diversion into silliness.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I know you wrote about brussel sprouts last Christmas, because I told you the story about how I discovered that I actually loved them when I had Christmas dinner in England at my boyfriend’s parents’ house 20 years ago. But I’m commenting on this post now because I JUST HAD BRUSSEL SPROUTS FOR DINNER LAST NIGHT!!! WE ARE SO IN TUNE!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • We are indeed. I just got back from the supermarket with a small plastic bag of them–and not even for Christmas. I hate to say this, since I’m sure my post sent everyone into a panic, but whatever the shortage amounts to, you couldn’t spot it on the supermarket shelves.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. In The States, broccoli seems all the rage. One year my cousin’s wife -generally a very good cook – scalded the broccoli -cheese soup. While the other grown-ups mourned, I went out to the rec room with their 10 & 8 year old daughters and we did a happy dance.

    Good thing the Kale Parade didn’t include the marching Precision Lawn Mower Brigade (though this may be another States thing).

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Precision Lawnmower march is definitely at U.S. thing. But then, so were the kale people. But as far as I know, the first is held in California and the second happened in Minnesota, so I think we’re safe. It does call a vivid picture to mind, though.


  7. Brussel sprouts are still growing or at least surviving and sweetening in our garden. Mind you it’s hovering around 0 just now. They are a grand hearty vegetable and their dignity should not be undermined by inappropriate usage. That said, I’d like to see a parade of people covered in brussel sprouts. All those little balls covering . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ellen – this is important! I love brussels sprouts. That being said, I would not like them in a smoothie either. They are best cooked with bacon. We had them for Thanksgiving so they aren’t in the cards for Christmas. I feel that a petition should be created for this obvious travesty.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh what a shame 😉 , all we need now is something to exterminate broccoli and I’ll be in for a joyous Noel. Any chance of seeing off the turkey population too or would that be a step too far.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. My daughter hates brussels sprouts. When she was small, I used to tease her about it just before Christmas. I’d claim that I’d been a long time out shopping in town because the traffic was held up by the queues of lorries (US: trucks) delivering tons and tons of sprouts to our Waitrose supermarket.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. It’s worse than you think, Ellen. Lakeland are selling all manner of things with images of Brussel sprouts on them including party serviettes, plates and even Brussel Sprout roulette… And, thanks to bad taste or possibly lack of taste as I suspect that something like that has to explain it, I’ve had pistachio icecream from the local supermarket that had as an ingredient, Spinach.

    As for Trifle, having had to eat rather too much of it when I was a small child, at birthday parties, I would be happy never to see let alone eat it again. Soggy sponge-fingers soaked in sherry, custard and jelly… Urgh!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Used to be I didn’t like Brussels sprouts until someone at the Farmer’s Market explained to me that they need a touch of frost to start producing their sugar. This seems to make all the difference in the world. We get them still on the stalk and enjoy them from the CSA (where they are allowed to get that nip of colder weather). The ones in the supermarket arriving from southern California tend to taste like damp socks (and smell somewhat like them, too!)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I think that they are in abundance, but they look pretty ropey compared to other years. Lidl have been selling them for 19p a kilo. I have bought 2 kilos stripped them of their outer nasties and blanched and froze them. I suggest others do the same – Sol

    Liked by 1 person

      • Well you two enjoy those little buggers. I am considering the chocolate sprouts I just found on an English website–perfect solution to the question my English friends here in California sometimes ask: did you eat your Christmas sprouts??

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Pingback: Christmas pudding and brussels sprouts | Notes from the U.K.

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