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Sprouts get a better taste for Christmas

You either love them or hate them. hort.purdue.edu

A Swiss-British company, Syngenta, is helping children overcome the ultimate Christmas nightmare: the prospect of eating Brussels sprouts.

This content was published on December 23, 2004 - 10:38

The agroindustrial firm – which supplies 80 per cent of Europe’s sprout seeds – has brought glad tidings to Christmas lunch by cultivating sweeter tasting varieties.

For many, the Brussels sprout is a bitter pill to swallow – its acrid flavour means it is the least popular of vegetables in some parts of the world.

Its fans are few and far between, especially in Europe and the United States.

Sweet magic

The Syngenta scientists used traditional methods of cultivation to weed the bitterness out, which in turn increased sweetness.

The project was five years in the making.

“There was no genetic modification involved, only techniques that have been in place since Adam was around,” Andrew Coker, Syngenta’s press spokesman, told swissinfo.

The new improved vegetables also passed a series of blind tests conducted on children.

“They even asked for second helpings until they realised what it was they were eating!” exclaimed Coker.

The fact that the new improved vegetables no longer taste acrid has made life a lot easier for parents who are keen to see their kids eat up their veg for health reasons.

“Brussels sprouts are enormously high in vitamin C – a half cup of sprouts provides as much vitamin C as six glasses of orange juice,” Coker said.

Sprouting hatred

As to why many children hated sprouts in the first place, Coker explained that infant palates were simpler than adult ones and found it easier to cope with sweeter flavours.

“Of course, all children are different and some parents are more adventurous than others when it comes to food,” he added.

Dislike of sprouts is universal, according to Coker.

“I thought it was a British joke but I talked to colleagues from around the world and they all say the same thing: they hated sprouts as a child.”

swissinfo, Faryal Mirza

In brief

Syngenta has cultivated new, less bitter varieties of Brussels sprouts which taste sweeter.

In blind tests, even children asked for second helpings.

The Swiss company supplies 80% of sprout seeds in Europe.

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Key facts

Sprouts are an excellent source of vitamins A and C and B-complex vitamins.
They originated in the Middle East.
The first sprouts were recorded in Western Europe in the early 1200s.
They were named Brussels sprouts after becoming popular in the Belgian capital in the 1500s.

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