Very few foods engender as powerful emotions as Brussels sprouts. Quite simply, you either love them or hate them. There’s no middle ground!
Some people link Brussels sprouts to happy times in life, like family meals or holiday celebrations. For them, the nostalgia and happy memories make them more enjoyable.
Sprouts are also something of a super food – providing a great source of vitamin K and C.
Whether you love them or hate them, one thing that most people agree on is that old sprouts can taste disgusting! But when do they go bad? How long are they safe to eat?
In today’s post I’ll look to answer both of these questions and show you how to store your sprouts to extend their shelf life.
Can You Get Sick From Eating Old Brussels Sprouts?
Yes. Any rotten vegetable might cause you to get sick. If you look at a sprout and you see it has mold or mildew growth because of fungus, chances are if you eat it, you are going to get sick.
Some molds can lead to allergic reactions, including respiratory problems. Other molds, if found in the right circumstances, might produce mycotoxins. These can make you very sick.
Some people think by cutting mold off, they make the rest of the vegetable safe to eat. Unfortunately this isn’t always true. What you see on the surface is just part of the mold growth, the proverbial tip of the iceberg.
When foods have heavy mold growth, it’s possible that the roots or threads have invaded the food deeply. With dangerous mold growth, the poisonous part of the mold is often around these deeper threads.
Is it Safe to Eat Uncooked Brussels Sprouts?
Brussels sprouts contain sulfur. Other vegetables in this category include broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. Even in the best of circumstances, eating uncooked sprouts can cause gastrointestinal discomfort.
Therefore, it’s recommended that you cook sprouts before you eat them as opposed to eating them raw.
How Can You Tell if Brussels Sprouts Have Gone Bad?
Because most people don’t eat Brussels sprouts regularly, it can be tricky to know when they’ve gone bad. Fortunately, there are obvious signs that you can look for to know whether or not they’re safe to eat.
You should expect some coarse outer leaves. This is normal. You would see the same thing if you looked at some form of lettuce or cabbage. All you need to do is peel off the coarse outer leaves as you are preparing the vegetables, and they’re good to go.
If there outer leaves have brown edges, this does not mean that the sprouts aren’t safe to eat. Simply remove the brown edges of the leaves and you can then cook the sprouts normally.
However, there are clear warning signs that sprouts have gone off and need to be thrown away, which I’ll now explain in more detail.
Bugs Living Between the Leaves
These bugs are usually small. Their size and coloration can make it difficult for you to spot them immediately. Therefore, thoroughly wash sprouts in cold water before cooking them.
If you see bugs fall off when washing, this should alert you that something is wrong with the Brussels sprouts.
An Extremely Pungent Smell
Brussels sprouts are bitter and smell bitter. However, if your sprouts have an extremely pungent odor and smell like old cabbage, it’s time to throw them out. The good news is that this sign isn’t subtle. When sprouts go bad, the smell is so strong that you don’t have to be close to them to be affected by the odor – they can stink out your whole kitchen!
A Squishy or Soft Texture
When you touch good Brussels sprouts, they should be firm. If yours are no longer firm, this could be a sign that you need to cook them immediately. If they’re even softer and are squishy when you squeeze them, throw them out.
Visible Mold Growth
If there is any visible mold on your sprouts, throw them away. Mold can be extremely dangerous. You don’t want to risk your health trying to save Brussels sprouts that have developed mold.
How Long Do Brussels Sprouts Last?
The name Brussels sprouts can be confusing. Far from being a little sprout, these are hardy vegetables that, besides having a strong flavor, are known for their longevity.
When you look at Brussels sprouts, you think you are looking at a little cabbage. However, when you bite into them, you realize you’re eating a vegetable that has a flavor uniquely its own. The reason I mention this is because you can’t use the same criteria that you’d use for a vegetable like cabbage when determining if Brussels sprout are good or bad.
Sprouts, like all fresh vegetables do not come with specified use by date. You will need to base their freshness on the date you purchased them and the date they were picked. Their shelf life will vary based on when they were picked and whether they have been stored properly.
When stored in the pantry (or kitchen cupboards), they will have a shelf life of between three and four days if they’re not attached to the stem. If you refrigerate individual sprouts, they can last between one and two weeks. If you blanch them and put them in the freezer, they can last between 12 and 16 months.
Of course they will last for a shorter time if not properly stored. Left out on at room temperature you can expect sprouts to stay good for a couple of days at most.
How Long Do Sprouts Last On The Stalk?
If your Brussels sprouts are still on the stalk, they can last between three and four days left out of the fridge. You can expect them to last for up to three weeks when refrigerated.
How to Buy Brussels Sprouts for Maximum Freshness
When shopping for Brussels sprouts, you should go for those that have a green color and are firm to the touch. If possible, you should buy sprouts that are still connected to the stem. These will typically last longer.
Stay away from yellow ones or those that already have black spots on them. Smaller sprouts have a more pungent flavor, whereas larger ones will taste more like cabbage. Never purchase sprouts that are moist, moldy, or soft. These have already turned bad.
What Time of Year Are Brussels Sprouts in Season?
Sprouts are a cool weather vegetable and their main growing season is between September and February.
However, because of their popularity you will likely be able to find them in stores year round.
How Long Can You Keep Brussels Sprouts in the Fridge?
Spouts can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks. However, the longer they are stored, the more bitter they become. Over time, they will lose any sweetness they might have. It is recommended that you prepare and eat them within three to four days of purchase.
If possible, avoid washing them until you’re ready to cook. Moisture can accelerate decay. I also recommend that you buy sprouts on the stalk. Not only does it feel more fun, they will stay fresh longer in the refrigerator. Keep them on the stalk until you are ready to cook them.
What Happens if You Eat Expired Brussels Sprouts?
Expired Brussels sprouts can cause food poisoning. Leafy greens, especially when eaten raw, are a major source of food poisoning.
Leafy vegetables can become contaminated with bacteria like E. coli and salmonella. In fact, since 1973, a major portion of food poisoning outbreaks in the United States were connected to leafy greens. For this reason, take special care when checking Brussels sprouts before preparing them. Always wash them thoroughly. If they appear spoiled or have sat at room temperature for a long period of time, it’s better to be safe and toss them out.
How to Store Brussels Sprouts
It’s best to keep your sprouts whole until you want to use them. If you must trim, shred, or cut them in advance, you should only do so one or two days prior to using them. To maximise freshness they should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge.
Untrimmed sprouts, whether loose or on the stalk, should be stored in a plastic bag. Put the plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.
Prior to storing, remove wilted and yellow leaves. If you purchase loose sprouts in a cardboard container, they are likely covered in cellophane. You should immediately remove the wrapping and check the Brussels sprouts. If any are damaged or already going bad, remove them from the container. Recover the container. Stick them in the crisper.
Can You Freeze Brussels Sprouts?
Yes. There are two popular options for freezing Brussels sprouts. You have the individual quick freeze, or you have the package freeze.
First, blanche the Brussels sprouts. For the individual quick freeze option, lay the individual Brussels sprouts out on a cookie sheet. Put the cookie sheet in your freezer as close to where the air enters your freezer. Once the sprouts are frozen, store them away in freezer bags in your freezer. You want to get rid of as much air as you possibly can before you seal the bags.
The second option is to freeze a package of sprouts together. You can package Brussels sprouts into portion size groups and stick them in freezer bags. When you place the sprouts in the bag, get rid of as much of the air as you possibly can. The best way to do this is by using a vacuum sealer if you have one.
Make sure not to over fill the bags. Ideally, you only want a single layer of Brussels sprouts in each bag to allow the quickest freezing.
Freezing sprouts in this way will allow you to grab ready to use portion size Brussels sprouts and cook them on demand.
How Long Do Frozen Brussels Sprouts Last?
If they are properly frozen, they can stay good for up to 16 months. Many people who grow their own Brussels sprouts use the above-mentioned techniques to store the Brussels sprouts they harvest during the fall through the winter months.