When Do Brussels Sprouts Go Bad?

How long do brussels sprouts last I hear you ask? As you would quite rightly not eat anything past their best with it being meat, dairy products and more, vegetables; and brussels sprouts, in particular, have their way of showing us when they have ‘gone bad’. But what are the tell-tell signs as to when this little green sprout has had its day and time to throw in the bin?

Here in this article, we will discuss the many ways of keeping brussels sprouts fresh as long as possible, and the best ways to store them.

Loose vs Stalk

The most common way brussels sprouts are packaged and sold is already off their stalk and bagged up loose. Another way these can be bought is as a whole stalk with the brussels sprouts still attached. The latter is becoming more popular in supermarkets, local markets and farm shops. When they are still attached to the stalk they were grown on, sprouts will last far longer than if they were picked and packaged nicely before arriving at your local store. If they are stored correctly, i.e. in the fridge if it is big enough, stalked brussels sprouts can last up to several weeks before they take a turn for the worse. Compared to being loose, when they are stored in the same conditions, sprouts will only tend to only average a week or two at their best.

Fridge vs Freezer

Luckily for you, there is more than just one way of storing these tasty little sprouts. A big difference here is how they will initially stay their freshest is in the form they were bought in.  As I mentioned above, this will be them either being packaged loose or still attached to their stalk. 

Some vegetables, especially root-based vegetables, are quite happy being stuck away in a dark cupboard somewhere, away from extreme heat and cold, like the potato. But brussels sprouts, not so much. They like to be kept cool, and if you have the space in your fridge for a stalk of sprouts, then with other vegetables is great! If you do happen to have some vegetables or fruit stored in your fridge that are overripe or are past their best, keep your fresh brussels sprouts separate. Otherwise, as with all fruit and veg, the sprouts will begin to go bad sooner than you would like, perhaps even before you get round to actually cooking them!

Brussels sprouts can also be stored in your freezer to help stay fresher even longer! It is recommended to blanch the sprouts beforehand to ensure they keep their color, flavors and texture. Cook in boiling water for around 3 minutes, and then cool down in icy cold water, before draining and drying them well. Placing them in the freezer on trays before transferring them to a freezer bag will ensure that the sprouts do not stick together, (which can make them harder to take out when you need them!). This way, your sprouts will stay fresh for up to 12 months! Just take them out when you need and cook them straight from frozen, just like peas! Don’t worry, blanching your sprouts is not the same as cooking them outright, it just ensures that they stay at their very best for when you decide to cook them.

Now it is important to note, that if you have frozen your brussels sprouts, they can not be refrozen. So only take out what you need and leave the rest.

To wash or not to wash

That is the question Shakespeare asked right? No, that was ‘To be, or not to be’. Well, this is still an important question when it comes to storing your brussels sprouts nonetheless. If you have ever washed your fruit or vegetables before storing them away in the fridge, have you ever noticed that they will deteriorate faster? Now, this is because the extra moisture you have just added to your sprouts helps to speed up the decay. It is best to only wash your sprouts, and all your fruit and vegetables for that matter, just before you intend you use them.

If you are absolutely dead set that you would like to wash your sprouts before storing them in the fridge, drying them to absorb any excess moisture would be your best bet to avoid them spoiling faster. Just avoid the temptation to overdry, which can increase the chances of wilting!

When their time has finally come

Now, you’ve done your best when it comes to storing your brussels sprouts, either in the fridge or via the freezer. If you have happened to store them in the fridge, it’s best to watch out for when your brussels sprouts are starting to turn. Apart from following the supermarkets ‘Best Before’ date, what are those key signs?

  • They are soft to the touch. Are they starting to feel less firm than when you first bought them? Have they gone full-blown slimy and soft? Definitely time to throw if they have hit this point. 
  • Smelling like old cabbage? Brussels sprouts have a unique smell to them, and if they start to smell too strong, you know it is time to throw them. Trust your nose with this, the smell will get stronger the more they age, and so will the taste. If you do choose to cook at this stage, the sprouts will taste very sour. Save your tastebuds this torment!
  • Do they have large black spots? This is quite a tell-tell sign that the sprouts have gone past their best as these black spots are a type of fungus. Throw out straight away. 

Now if you do happen to eat brussels sprouts that have gone past their best, you are more than likely to suffer from belly pain. Our stomachs will struggle to process the carbohydrates that brussels sprout contain so it’s best to follow all the best practices to ensure you’re eating this vegetable at its very best!

But luckily, now you have all the knowledge you need to keep your brussels sprouts fresh for as long as possible and can see the signs as to when they have finally had their day.

Kunal Sharma
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