Postcards from the (left-over) veg

'We pretended to be a gang of villains, such as the mafia or visitors from Ipswich. It was great fun'
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The Independent Online

With Boxing Day comes the great Boxing Day conundrum, namely what on earth can we do with all those left-over brussels sprouts? Those little green knobs that looked so steaming and appetising in a huge pile on the Christmas dinner table, and that look rather less so now that they sit in a sullen bowl covered with green-flecked cling film - what can we do with them short of throwing them away?

With Boxing Day comes the great Boxing Day conundrum, namely what on earth can we do with all those left-over brussels sprouts? Those little green knobs that looked so steaming and appetising in a huge pile on the Christmas dinner table, and that look rather less so now that they sit in a sullen bowl covered with green-flecked cling film - what can we do with them short of throwing them away?

Easy!

In November I put out an appeal to readers for their ideas on brussels sprouts recycling, and your ideas poured in by the thousand, so today I am able to get on with my Yule festivities while my readers do all the hard work.

"Sprouts make very good Christmas tree decorations," claims Miss EJ, of Bristol. "Leave them to go hard, then put a little hook in them, thread them with string and dangle them from your tree. They are usually exactly the same colour as the tree and blend in very well. I once saw a Christmas tree decorated entirely with brussels sprout baubles, an entirely green tree, and very stylish it looked too in an understated sort of way, though it had started to smell a bit by twelfth night."

Mrs Ethel G, of Evesham, adds that sprouts also make good eyes on snowmen. "Two sprouts stuck in the optic orbs of a snowman give a rather ghostly, glowing green effect, all the more so if, as we did one year, you paint luminous paint on to the sprouts. Spooky!"

"In my childhood we used to play a game on Boxing Day called sprouts and robbers," says Mr GM of Norwich. "One side would be armed with all the left-over sprouts they could muster while the other pretended to be a gang of villains such as the mafia or visitors from Ipswich. We would then pelt each other with sprouts. It was great fun."

Another game is reported by Miss Eve T, of Yeovil.

"In the West Country it is customary to sell sprouts still on their stalk, to keep them fresh, so you get long cabbage-like stalks up to three feet in length festooned with sprouts. Well, if you keep the stalk it makes a very good bat for sprout rounders, in which you also use the left-over sprouts as a ball. Incidentally, I wonder if anyone has ever thought of using sprouts as Christmas conkers? All you would have to do is varnish the sprouts or dip them in some fast-drying solution, and, hey presto, you could have a game of conkers long after chestnuts have vanished!"

Well, perhaps, but as nobody seems to play conkers any more, it is unlikely. The only other game reported to involve sprouts came from Mrs YT, of Penarth, who remembers endless Boxing Day games of sprout marbles.

"Little sprouts made excellent substitutes for glass marbles, which we couldn't afford anyway. Of course, they were bumpier than marbles, but that made it more fun, more eccentric. The only snag was that my mother tended to overcook sprouts, so they sometimes fell to bits during a game - Jimmy Humphries's mother, on the other hand, always undercooked vegetables and her sprouts were prized as marbles."

Mr VCR, of Harrogate, remembers experimenting with sprouts as a ballistic weapon in post-war days.

"Everyone had a peashooter back then, which you used to blow dried peas at people, so one year me and my brother thought we could increase the calibre of the shooter and use sprouts instead, like a bazooka instead of a rifle. It did work after a fashion, but you needed too much puff to get a sprout very far. Any road, it all came to an abrupt halt when my brother, raising the sprout shooter for another shot, sucked instead of blowing and got a sprout stuck in his throat. He almost choked to death, and mother forbade us to do it any more."

I haven't got the space to quote other letters at length, but among the other uses suggested for sprouts were as practice juggling balls, fish bait, miniature-railway layout foliage ("actually turns yellow and falls in autumn!" claims JU, of Amersham), counterweights for weighing machines, source of green make-up, things to dangle in car windows etc etc.

What nobody suggested was a way of bringing sprouts back to the table again.

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