Lynne Mortimer: is it OK to eat sprouts before there’s a frost on them?

PUBLISHED: 15:08 09 November 2020

On the menu. .  .as long as there's been a frost. Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

On the menu. . .as long as there's been a frost. Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

uwe mayer

Our columnist investigates this and other old wives’ tales

Red hat, no knickers. . .  asLynne Mortimer's Nana used to say. Image: Getty Images/iStockphotoRed hat, no knickers. . . asLynne Mortimer's Nana used to say. Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

It will soon be okay to stockpile sprouts.

There is a widely-held view that Brussels sprouts don’t taste of anything until we’ve had a frost. Fact or an old wives’ tale. . . or should that be ‘fake news’? And while I’m on the topic of sprouts, does anyone else cut a little cross into the bottom of each sprout or is it just me?

Unfashionably, I like sprouts and I like them boiled. This, I know, will be deeply distressing to all those celebrity cooks/chefs out there who would like me to cut them up roughly, blanch them and lightly fry with lardons.

I am not a fan of cooking trends. The culinary whizz kids tend to take things I quite like and do something cheffy and unfortunate with them. Who thought it was a good idea to ‘smash’ new potatoes? If I want my new potatoes thrown together in a heap of bits, I can do that with a fork. And don’t, please, balance a bit of meat on top this pile of spuds.

Fondant (sometimes pronounced with a French accent) potatoes. What’s the point of them? Avocado on toast. . . why would you?

Read: What makes a Suffolk person?

I am not an adventurous eater. My husband, on the other hand, not only once ordered frogs’ legs and ate them but made the amphibian limbs swim in his finger bowl. He has also eaten snails which look disconcertingly like. . . er. . . snails.

With our planet needing more and more food, we will inevitably need a more diverse diet. It is already happening. Who would have thought we would be using low-carbon-footprint extra-virgin rape seed oil, pressed in Suffolk, rather than olive oil?

We are told that insects are a great source of protein, and locusts, I know, are gaining in popularity – though not in my house, they’re not. In the biology lab at high school, we had a tank of live locusts and they smelt terrible. I don’t know why they were there – probably something to do with the Lower 6th and scalpels.

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There are other old wives’ tales. I should love to meet the person who said putting conkers in the bottom of the wardrobe would deter moths. I ended up with mouldy conkers and holes in my woollies.

My husband swears by, ‘Rain before seven, fine by 11’ which seems to work about 50 percent of the time.

Another unreliable weather predictor is the one about cows lying down if rain is due. Our bovine friends must feel redundant now we can all Google the Met Office – so much quicker than seeking out a grazing dairy herd. Or do the meteorologists creep out into the countryside to see what the cattle are doing, just before they feel the seaweed hanging by the back door? If two out of three cows are standing, it might account for the percentage probabilities of rain – 66.6 percent likely.

More pertinent at this time of year is the lore of berries – the more we have, the colder the winter. Allegedly. We have had a bumper crop of holly berries this year but a pair of pigeons takes up residence in the tree and eats the lot before the bad weather sets in.

My nana used to recommend plunging your feet into a chamber pot of wee to combat chilblains, a remedy I have never tried. In fact, I haven’t met anyone who has tested this theory. . . and I’m not sure I want to be the guinea pig.

‘Red hat, no knickers.’ Also untested. Nana was also keen to let me know that if I pulled a face – usually when attempting to extract her concrete-set blackberry and apple jam from the jar – that, should the wind change, I would stay like that.

‘Sing at the table, die in the workhouse,’ was another cheery adage that I tucked away into my dossier of childhood paranoia.

More fun were the load of silly rhymes that circulated in the playground when I was a schoolgirl, including the fashion police issue ‘Blue and green should never be seen’. I held true to this until I went to high school, where the uniform colours were, you’ve guessed it, blue and green.

On balance, I expect it’s all load of old hooey. . . but I think we’re in for a cold winter.

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