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20 things you didn't know about the humble sprout.

WAS there ever a bigger cause of Christmas disagreements than the sight of Brussels sprouts on the dinner table on December 25? The little green monsters polarise opinion like football and politics. Yet every year we munch our way through more than a billion of the beggars... so someone must be eating them. Here's STEVE MYALL with 20 things you didn't know about the humble sprout...

1 It won its name after becoming popular in the Belgian capital in the 16th Century, but the Brussels sprout is originally thought to have come from Iran and Afghanistan.

2 Part of the Brassica family, its close relations include the more popular cabbage, broccoli and kale.

3 Around 5,000 years ago sprouts were prescribed by Chinese physicians as a medication for bowel problems.

4 To the untrained eye one sprout looks like any other, but there are 50 varieties of the mini green cabbages to avoid if you're not a fan.

5 They come in all shapes and sizes - from "button" sprouts for discount stores which are 20-25mm wide, "prepack" at 25-32mm for bags sold in stores and "loose" 32-40mm, for the big trays in supermarkets.

6 Packed full of folic acid and anticancerous properties, there are plenty of health reasons to eat sprouts.

7 Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown is sure to be revelling in the benefits after revealing himself as a champ of the unloved vegetable.

8 In the run-up to Christmas, farmers run 10 times as many harvesters and work from dawn until dusk picking them.

9 Chances are that if you've eaten a Brussels sprout over the last few years, you've eaten one of farmer John Clappison's.

He grows one in 20 of all sprouts sold in the UK, producing 175million of the little beasts each year.

10 Often thought of as a Christmas vegetable because of their need to grow at cool temperatures, thanks to modern growing techniques the sprout is now available almost all year round.

11 In 2010, bitterly cold temperatures between -5C and -11C cut harvesting short by two months and led to fears of a sprout shortage over Christmas.

12 Farmers use a state-of-the-art sorter which uses three digital cameras to take six pictures of each sprout with the fat or ugly ones being blasted off the conveyor using a jet of compressed air.

13 In December, supermarket Morrisons sells about 650 tonnes of sprouts each week. That's more than the take-off weight of an A380 Airbus.

14 It's not an easy journey to your table. The sprout has an astonishing 46 pests and diseases trying to kill it off, from the caterpillar to an assortment of aphids, which makes growing them organically in the UK virtually impossible.

15 As you're letting out your waistband feasting on turkey, roast potatoes and cranberry sauce, remember that a cup of cooked Brussels sprouts contains only about 60 calories.

16 Sprout fan Linus Urbanec from Sweden holds the current world record for the most Brussels sprouts eaten in one minute. He swallowed 31 on November 26, 2008.

17 Bernard Lavery, of Llanharry in Rhondda Cynon Taff, has held the record for the heaviest Brussels sprout since October 1, 1992, when he grew a monster that weighed in at 8.3kg. Imagine that on your table!

18 This year Tesco is selling giant sprouts, the biggest ever seen on the high street.

19 Overcooking sprouts makes them smell like rotten eggs. With high levels of sulforaphane, sprouts should be cooked for only four to six minutes.

20 And the reason why lots of people don't like them? Sprouts are hard to digest and full of sulphurcontaining chemicals to deter animals from feeding on their leaves. It's this that can clear a room in seconds...

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Our Steve investigates Morrisons' Wayne tucks in to sprouts

Picture: ROLAND LEON
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUBL
Date:Dec 23, 2012
Words:641
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