After Thanksgiving last weekend, the holiday leftovers were lonely. There was a terrific amount of turkey, many mounds of mashed potatoes, a bevy of butternut squash and a significant supply of stuffing, but there was one dish that was missing.

Brussels sprouts were not accompanying the leftovers in the refrigerator. Don’t think for a minute that this vegetable was forgotten on the holiday shopping list. It certainly made the cut, just not the leftover list, since the Brussels sprouts were eaten all up immediately after they were served.

A longtime favorite at our table, Brussels sprouts elicit a different response elsewhere. 

Irish writer Sarah Rees Brennan remembers her father’s threats at the dinner table: “If you’re going to turn up your nose at all my carnivorous delights, ingrate child, you can sit under the table and gnaw sadly on a raw Brussels sprout at mealtimes.” And humorist Dave Barry knew that true terror centered around having to eat this vegetable, noting “we kids feared many things in those days — werewolves, dentists, North Koreans, Sunday School — but they all paled in comparison with Brussels sprouts.”

A 2008 survey by Heinz suggests that Brussels sprouts are the “most hated vegetable in America.” But in my book, there is little reason to dislike these cute little cabbages. Some folks complain about the smell of Brussels sprouts, but in fact, they should be grumbling about the chef. The foul smell that offends some is the result of overcooking, which causes a sulfur-like odor when the compound glucosinolate sinigrin breaks down.

Europeans don’t have the same issues with this vegetable, and Britons eat the lion’s share on that continent. Swede Linus Urbanec is squarely in the love Brussels camp, since he holds the Guinness World Record for consuming them. In one minute, Linus ate 31 sprouts! 

But it was an English man, Bernard Lavery, who took it to the next level. Mr. Lavery has a love of the large: his claim to fame is growing the world’s biggest Brussels sprout, which weighed 18 pounds, three ounces. And don’t discount Stuart Kettell. In 2014, this British adventurer used his nose to push Brussels sprouts up Mount Snowdon to raise money for cancer research. His successful vertical push took four days and necessitated 22 sprouts!  

One might say it was a crazy stunt, but perhaps it is crazier to waste this healthy food. Brussels sprouts are high in vitamin C, K and B. In fact, a serving of Brussels sprouts has four times as much vitamin C as an orange.

As one might suspect, Brussels sprouts were named for Brussels, Belgium, where they were popularized in the 13th century. Their wild brethren, however, were likely from Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, though the Ancient Romans knew them also.

French settlers in Louisiana likely brought Brussels sprouts to this country. Although these vegetables are comfortable in cold weather (even being tastier after a frost) and can be grown throughout the country, California leads the way in production.

Brussels sprouts are actually buds that grow above the stems of the plant. You can buy them on or off the stem. I prefer them on the stem, since they last longer and are more interesting to look at, even if they take up more space in the crisper. For freshness, look for green buds with a white base: yellowing or brown leaves are signs of decay.

P.J. O’Rourke quipped that a fruit is just a vegetable with looks and money. Maybe Brussels sprouts’ real problem is bad public relations. After all, since miniature corncobs, tomatoes and oranges (among others) have become so popular, Brussels sprouts might have done better had they been introduced as more flavorful “fun size” versions of their jolly green giant relative, the cabbage. Then, as in our house, they might never even be associated with the word “leftover” again!

Suzan Bellincampi is director of the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown, and author of Martha’s Vineyard: A Field Guide to Island Nature.