Sunday, 20 January 2008

Sprout tops

I don't think I had even heard of sprout tops until about seven or eight years ago; or at least, I certainly had never considered eating them. Now they are everywhere ("everywhere", in this instance, meaning all the best restaurants). My very wonderful colleague Fay Maschler, in a review of some west London gastropub, mentioned the other day how she was served "a side dish of sprout tops, a vegetable currently in vogue", while Giles Coren in the Times seemed to like the sprout tops he ate at Rowley Leigh's Café Anglais*. I assumed he liked them, because he described them as "sleek and buttery", which sounds to me like a good thing. But you never know.

Anyway, here are ours. The more observant amongst you will deduce that they are not this year's sprouts, because they are photographed against a snowy background, and we haven't had any snow in London this year. In fact they are last year's, but I thought it was OK to put the picture in, because it is so pretty.

The first time I ate sprout tops was one Christmas with my brother-in-law, who is a top bloke in many respects but who had chosen - for reasons best known to himself - not to wash them, or indeed to cut them up in any way: they were served whole, and somewhat gritty. But they were delicious, and despite the slightly crunchy texture I was hooked. I have since learned that it is OK to wash them, and to chop them up.

The only problem is that they are the cause of a slight disagreement with my wife. She is basically only interested in growing sprouts for the sake of the sprout tops. I like the sprouts too, and reckon you ought to let the plants stand while you work your way through the sprouts. She says we ought to get on with it and eat the sprout tops while they are still looking good. It leads to tense times on the allotment, with me in a constant state of anxiety because of the worry that Mrs Low will cut down the sprouts as soon as my back is turned. I am thinking of posting an armed guard next to the sprouts, just in case.

[*It is my birthday today, and we are going to the Café Anglais to celebrate. I hope the sprout tops are still on the menu]


Molly said...

It may further the cause of domestic harmony to know that experts recommend removing the tops of sprout plants to encourage the sprouts themselves to develop. I have not tried this, but I intend to do so next year because my sprouts never get very big.

Valentine Low said...

Thanks for that, Molly. I may try it next year when I am feeling brave.