Photo of Brussels sprouts

Tiny little globes of copywriting goodness?

It’s that time of year again. Hey nonny nonny, fol de rol and mince pies to you all. It’s also the time of year when every blogger shoehorns Christmas into their subject area.  How do you fancy Copywriting Turkeys of 2013, or The Twelve Days of Punctuation?

No? Me neither.

I am going to do the opposite, and shoehorn copywriting into Christmas.  One specific part of Christmas in fact: Brussels sprouts.

They are a love ’em or loathe ’em bunch of fellows. Personally, I love ’em, but only if they are sauteed with butter and bacon.  The traditional boiling leaves me feeling sick (and is what causes the distinctive smell).  It’s a shame they have such a bad reputation, because when you look at them, they are little darlings: doll sized cabbages bursting with goodness, what’s not to love?

Do Brussels come from Brussels?

Yes! And no. Well, maybe.

Brussels sprouts were developed around 1750 as a sprouting form of cabbage plants. So says the Royal Horticultural Society, and heavens, they should know. Only, perhaps cousins of Brussels were prescribed for bowel problems by the Chinese and eaten as a delicacy by ancient Romans. The modern version may have been cultivated in the 1200s in what we now call Belgium.  Then again, perhaps it was 1587.

The OED says a 1796 gardening book has the distinction of the first printed reference, but the first cookery book to mention them (as cabbage sprouts) was The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse in 1747. Then again, maybe it was Modern Cookery for Private Families by Eliza Acton in 1845, when she recommended that they be cooked in “the Belgian mode” – boiled (Bleurgh!), covered in butter (Mmm!) and served on toast (What?! Sprouts on toast?)

So from this slightly dodgy research we’ve got the origin of Brussels sprouts as clear as the mud the little chaps grow in. (The research quality isn’t going to improve, I warn you).

Brussels Facts

What is less hotly debated is that they contain sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol, which are thought to be powerful anti-cancer elements.  They are also rich in vitamin K, which means people on anti-coagulents shouldn’t stuff themselves with them. They are packed with vitamin C amongst other goodies and 100g contains just 43 calories.

The Netherlands produces 82 thousand tonnes of the beauties every year. Despite our dubious relationship with them, the UK eats just under 40 thousand tonnes annually, a quarter of that amount in the Christmas period. Finally, it takes 38,182 of them to fill a Mini.

 Didn’t she promise some copywriting at the beginning?

Okay! Okay! I am building up to the big finish.  I have told you almost everything you ever wished to know about Brussels sprouts. And now the copywriting bit: They have no apostrophe! True. I know. It nearly kills me, but Brussels’ sprouts (as in sprouts belonging to Brussels) is not correct. Somewhere along the years the apostrophe fell off and has never been replaced.

It’s the English language, with all its idiosyncrasies and quirks. Enjoy it, and have a fabulous holiday.