Hand drawn image of Brussels sprouts tops

Brussels sprouts tops

Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera

Brussels sprout tops are the crowns of loosely packed leaves that grow at the top of the Brussels sprout stalk. The sprout tops are cut off to encourage the growth of the sprouts on the stalk - much like pinching out tomatoes. Once seen only as a grower’s perk, we think it would be criminal for them not to be enjoyed by you! Pleasantly bitter, like good kale, but less dense than a winter cabbage. Consider these a gateway veg to their more sulphurous progeny.

Treat them as mini, open-hearted cabbages, shredding and sautéing, boiling or adding to stews.

Image of Brussels sprouts tops being produced

In the kitchen

Storage

Open-hearted and loosely packed, these leaves have a shorter shelf life than the more tightly formed Brussels sprout. Store in the fridge and eat sooner rather than later - they should keep well for 3-4 days.

Prep & Cooking tips

You’ll only need to strip the leaves away from the larger stalks. The smaller central leaves can be sliced and cooked, stalks and all. The best way to chop the leaves is to lay them on top of one another and roll them into a tight cigar shape, then shred them, widthways, thickly or thinly depending on the daintiness of your dish. Wash them well before using. Any cluster of baby sprouts that cling to the stalk are a chef’s perk.

Use in any recipe that calls for cabbage, kale or sprouts. They are best finely shredded and then gently fried in a little butter or oil. It will only take a matter of mins for them to wilt and become tender. They boil or steam in next to no time or can be stirred into any number of soups, stews and curries for the last few minutes. Try them in a hearty bowl of Portuguese caldo verde in place of cabbage, wilted and stirred through mashed potato for a simple colcannon, or fried with bacon and chestnuts instead of regular sprouts.

Easy ideas

  1. Simple Things needn’t always be complicated. These greens are often at their best simply steamed, boiled or lightly wilted in a pan. A few mins is all you need; cook it for too long and, as with most brassicas, you’ll start to release more pungent flavours. Season with a little salt and pepper. If you feel the need then add a little butter or olive oil and maybe a restrained squeeze of lemon to finish.

  2. Simple sides As a side dish it can be a real cultural chameleon. Fry gently with a little desiccated coconut and black onion seed to set alongside a curry. Sauté in a hot wok with ginger, chilli and soy for all things Asian. Some crispy bacon and fragrant caraway invite a union with something dark and winey. A swirl of wholegrain mustard for a spontaneous Sunday side.

  3. The finishing touch Very finely shredded, these greens make a fresh and healthy finish to a robust soup or stew. A minestrone or ribollita, heavy with tomatoes and beans, would be ideal. The Portuguese caldo verde is simply stock, potatoes, chorizo and handfuls of sliced greens to finish. Even a deep savoury bowl of miso will be enriched with a tangle of noodle-thin greens. 4 mins should be fine on a gentle simmer, serve immediately.

Goes well with

Acidic flavours (lemon, vinegar, white wine) Alliums (Garlic, leek, onions)

Asian flavours (miso, soy etc.)

Dairy (butter, cream, Parmesan)

Herbs (bay, thyme, sage, rosemary)

Spices (Pepper, carraway, chilli, juniper, nutmeg, nigella seeds, mustard seeds)

Nuts and seeds (chestnuts, hazelnuts & sesame in particular)

Pork, bacon, chorizo

Shellfish & smoked fish Lentils

Brussels sprouts tops recipes

View all Brussels sprouts tops recipes

In the field

Seasonality

Available in November or early December, when they are trimmed to encourage the plants to focus their energy on the crop of sprouts below to flourish in time for Christmas.
jan
feb
mar
apr
may
jun
jul
aug
sep
oct
nov
dec

More in the A-Z

View all A-Z