Produce of the Month: Cauliflower!
This month we are celebrating the delicate, nutty flavor of cauliflower. We’ll learn about where cauliflower comes from, the fun things you can do with it, and a yummy recipe from Farmers Market Recovery volunteer, Chef Alexa Grey. We are at the tail end of its season so be sure to grab yours this weekend at the farmers market!
FMR farmer, Island Farms, sells beautiful cauliflower at the Studio City Farmers’ Market. Photo credit: Catherine Wall.
Background & History
Cauliflower is a member of the famed Brassicaceae or Cruciferae family and its brethren includes Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cress, bok choy, and broccoli. Known as a cruciferous vegetable, cauliflower grows flowers with four petals that resemble crosses. The early cauliflower plant resembled its cabbage-like relatives and had much smaller flower heads than what we grow today.
Cauliflower originated in the Mediterranean region and was used in Asia for many centuries before being introduced to Europe in the 16th Century. It did not become widely grown in North America until the 1900s. Today, with a ten-month growing season, California produces the 89% of cauliflower in the United States.
Characteristics & Types
A single plant has only a few heads of cauliflower anchored on a sturdy stalk. Large pale green leaves surround and protect its head from sunlight. All varieties are high in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, folate, and Vitamin B6. White cauliflower, the most common type, has a white head (or curd) because its florets do not produce chlorophyll. Over the years of cultivation, hybrids and variations of cauliflower have emerged. They can have green, orange, or purple heads depending on the nutrients stored in the florets.
Orange or “Cheddar” Cauliflower: This variety has extra beta-carotene in the florets which means they have more Vitamin A than other varieties.
Purple or “Graffiti” Cauliflower: Purple cauliflower has flavonoid compounds called anthocyanins, which give it the purple color and may help to regulate blood lipid and sugar levels, as well as help to lower cancer risk.
Green cauliflower or “broccoflower:” The yellow-green color of this variety comes from the cross-pollination of broccoli and cauliflower. It is similar in nutrient value as cauliflower but has some of the chlorophyll of broccoli.
Romanesco: Sometimes called Romanesco cauliflower or broccoli, the origin of this variety is unclear and it may be more of a relative of cauliflower rather than a variety. The color is similar to that of broccoflower but the spiral shaped spikes of the head make it very different and unique when compared to either broccoli or cauliflower.
Tips & How to Enjoy
When selecting cauliflower, look for clean, compact floret heads that are not separating. It can be stored for up to a week in a paper or plastic bag in the refrigerator, with the stem side down to avoid the build-up of moisture on the head. Once cooked, cauliflower should be eaten within two to three days. Cauliflower can grow throughout the year in Southern California but hits its peak flavor from December to March.
It is suggested that sautéing or roasting, rather than steaming or boiling, preserves the most nutrients and flavor in its florets. Once sautéd or roasted, the cauliflower can be eaten as is or incorporated into another dish.
2 tablespoons butter (or olive oil)
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 large head cauliflower
1 quart chicken broth
1. In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes, until onions are soft.
2. Add the garlic and the cauliflower. Cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, 20 minutes, until cauliflower is very tender.
3. Purée the soup in batches in food processor until very smooth in a food processor or blender.
4. Add salt and pepper to your liking and enjoy!
Photo credit: Alexa Grey
The name cauliflower likely derived from an early English term “colieflorie” or “cole-flory,” which combined the word cole (another cabbage-like vegetable in the Brassicaceae family) with flower.
Cauliflower was a favorite contribution to 16th Century French meat dishes, especially in the court of Louis XIV, and it was mentioned in cooking journals of French historians.