Even to the most hardened brussels sprouts dodgers, sprout tops – the clusters of leaves that grow at the crown of the sprouts' stalk – may come as something of a revelation.
These elegant, curved, purple-green leaves look beautiful – like a still life painted by a Dutch old master. In taste terms, they unite the sweet, cabbage-like freshness of young spring greens with a delicate memory of brussels sprouts, but without any of the latter's sometimes testing sulphurous undertones. They cook almost instantly to a submissive silkiness.
Although they have long been a passion shared by allotment gardeners, until quite recently, sprout tops used to lie discarded in the fields after harvest, or were fed to livestock. Happily, the word is out. Sprout tops are currently one of the hottest vegetables to have on your table, and retailers and growers are beginning to appreciate their market potential. So if you remain perplexed by the pre-Christmas sprout stampede, get your hands on some of this "new" (old) vegetable instead.