Whether you grew up in the 80s or have just watched a lot of 80s television, there was a running joke that all kids hated Brussels sprouts. Arguably, the vegetable still has a bad reputation, but it no longer deserves it. Brussels sprouts taste better in 2023, and there’s a scientific reason why (and no, it’s not because people make them with bacon).
Brussels sprouts bitter flavor was bred out of them in the 1990s, and ever since then, they’ve been a vegetable you’ll actually want to eat.
Did Brussels sprouts previously taste that bad? While there were obviously people who enjoyed the dish, the overwhelming consensus seems to be yes, and they were bitter. It was that bitterness that made eating them so hellish. Enter: Dutch scientist Hans van Doorn.
Lodge 10-1/4-Inch Pre-Seasoned Skillet
Saute those sprouts!
Van Doorn worked at Novartis which, at the time, still managed its seed component (which is now known as Syngenta). As a scientist there, he isolated the chemical compounds in Brussels sprouts that gave them a bitter taste.
Once those compounds were known, companies started looking for old seed varieties that had lower levels of them. When found, they were grown and then cross-pollinated with modern iterations. Eventually, the bitter taste was bred out of Brussels sprouts with a little science and some green thumbs.
Now, Brussels sprouts are arguably in vogue. Not only can you find crispy Brussels sprouts on appetizer menus at restaurants, but Brussels sprout recipes have even gone viral on TikTok. So maybe the resurgence of Brussels sprouts wasn’t on your Bingo card for this decade, but perhaps it should have been.
If you haven’t had Brussels sprouts since the 80s, it might be time to try a few recipes and decide for yourself if this maligned vegetable is delicious or still as gross as you remember.