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Tuesday, 2 January, 2001, 20:34 GMT
In defence of the sprout
Thomas Cook ad
Thomas Cook's controversial advertisement
Vegetable growers have accused travel agent Thomas Cook of a tasteless slur on the nation's festive favourite, the Brussels sprout.

It is an image which resonates with millions: a bowl of soggy sprouts as an incentive to flee the country.

Yet the British Sprout Growers' Association is upset that the travel company, Thomas Cook, has used the much-maligned veggie to illustrate the less appealing aspects of the festive season.

Got to be good
Sprouts contain:
Fibre
Folate
Vitamin C
May protect against heart disease and some cancers
"Sprouts are much sweeter-tasting nowadays!" they cry. "Buy British! Sprouts aren't from Brussels at all," they declare.

Yet it's an uphill battle to spice up the image of the humble sprout.

Nearly anyone who has tucked into a meal of meat 'n' three veg can recount a formative experience involving an over-boiled sprout.

But then, the average five-year-old rarely gives the sprout a chance.

Desperate measures

When faced with an unreasonably large pile of the mushy, greyish orbs - and at that age, any veggies at all are considered strange and unusual punishment - most children take evasive action.

Traditional Christmas dinner
"Turkey with all the trimmings, or paella on the beach?"
Remember the vain attempts to make the offending veg disappear - without actually resorting to eating it, of course.

First came the fork-propelled journey across the plate, followed by strategic mashing.

Then, as threats of "no pudding" rang out, it was time for the cunning "if I can't see them, then nobody can" trick, which involved hiding the sprouts under the rim of the plate.

Luvverly grub

But, believe it or not, even the sprout has undergone that most modern of phenomena, the rebranding.

The British Sprout Growers Association is spending a six-figure sum in the next three years advertising the vegetable's virtues.

The Thomas Cook campaign perpetuates an out-dated image, says Roger Welberry.

Record sprout
4lb including stalk
10" high
24" diameter
"With new recipes and new varieties of sprout that are sweeter, we're trying to get this perception of the soggy sprout away from people."

World record sprout grower Ian Henderson, of Prudhoe, Northumberland, also objects to the slur on the vegetable.

"Thomas Cook is being very cruel about sprouts, which are fantastic vegetables. There's a lot of them eaten at this time of year - you go to any supermarket and they'll tell you that sprouts are a top-seller."

"It's a Christmas season favourite. Why pick on the sprout?"

But Thomas Cook was unrepentant and insisted that the posters would not be withdrawn.

A spokeswoman for the company said: "We're not trying to say that sprouts are nice or nasty.

"The campaign was about things which niggle people about life in Britain. It's a question of perception."


LOVE 'EM OR LOATH 'EM? HAVE YOUR SAY
Elaine: I think it must be in our genetic make-up not to like veg as a child, and no amount of marketing will ever change generations of children.

Colin: Ignore Thomas Cook's cheap jibes. There are those of us out here for whom sprouts are the nearest thing to heaven on a plate.

Paul: I would rather eat my own ear wax.

Subhash: I, too, think boiled sprouts are usually appalling - however braised or broiled sprouts are a delight.

Janet: I think the Sprout Growers Association should raise the price of sprouts. We live in the USA and have to pay between 4 and 5 a pound at our local supermarket. At these prices, it has become a rare treat that we crave...

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14 Dec 00 | Sci/Tech
Wild, weedy and famous
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