Cauliflower

Cauliflower is one of several vegetables in the species Brassica oleracea, in the family Brassicaceae. It is an annual plant that reproduces by seed. Typically, only the head (the white curd) is eaten while the stalk and surrounding thick, green leaves are used in vegetable broth or discarded. Cauliflower is very nutritious, and may be eaten cooked, raw or pickled.

Its name is a variation of cole flower or kale flower (cole and kale being variations of the same word), an acknowledgment of its unusual place among a family of food plants which normally produces only leafy greens for eating. Brassica oleracea also includes cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli and collard greens, though they are of different cultivar groups.

Cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, and kale, contain compounds that may help prevent cancer. These compounds appear to stop enzymes from activating cancer-causing agents in the body, and they increase the activity of enzymes that disable and eliminate carcinogens. Epidemiological studies have long suggested a connection between these vegetables and resistance to cancer. However, only in the past decade have we begun to understand how these compounds work.

Low carb dieters can use cauliflower as a reasonable substitute for potatoes for while they can produce a similar texture, or mouth feel, they lack the starch of potatoes; cauliflower is used to produce a potato substitute known as fauxtato.

Cauliflower traces its ancestry to the wild cabbage, a plant thought to have originated in ancient Asia Minor, which resembled kale or collards more than the vegetable that we now know it to be.

The cauliflower went through many transformations and reappeared in the Mediterranean region, where it has been an important vegetable in Turkey and Italy since at least 600 B.C.

It gained popularity in France in the mid-16th century and was subsequently cultivated in Northern Europe and the British Isles. The United States, France, Italy, India and China are countries that produce significant amounts of cauliflower.

Storing and Cooking

Store uncooked cauliflower in a paper or plastic bag in the refrigerator where it will keep for up to a week. To prevent moisture from developing in the floret clusters, store it with the stem side down.

Cauliflower florets are the part of the plant that most people eat. However, the stem and leaves are edible too and are especially good for adding to soup stocks.

To cut cauliflower, first remove the outer leaves and then slice the florets at the base where they meet the stalks. You can further cut them, if you desire pieces that are smaller or of uniform size. Trim any brown coloration that may exist on the edges.

Cauliflower contains phytonutrients that release odorous sulfur compounds when heated. These odors become stronger with increased cooking time. If you want to minimize odor, retain the vegetable's crisp texture, and reduce nutrient loss, cook the cauliflower for only a short time.

Cauliflower can be roasted, boiled, fried, steamed or eaten raw. When cooking, the outer leaves and thick stalks are removed, leaving only the florets. The leaves are also edible, but are most often discarded.The florets should be broken into similar-sized pieces so they are cooked evenly. After eight minutes of steaming, or five minutes of boiling, the florets should be soft, but not mushy (depending on size). Stirring while cooking can break the florets into smaller, uneven pieces. Cauliflower is often served with a cheese sauce, as in the dish cauliflower cheese, or with a meat gravy.

Did you know?

When Columbus first arrived in the Americas, there were close to 300 varieties of corn being grown on the continent. Today, only 16 varieties of corn account for over 70% of the corn being grown in the United States. With the advent of genetically engineered corn, we are in danger of losing all genetic diversity, leaving the nations corn crop open to widespread destruction by a single fungus or disease.

Quotes

"Let us never forget that the cultivation of the earth is the most important labor of man. Man may be civilized in some degree without great progress in manufactures and with little commerce with his distant neighbors. But without the cultivation of the earth, he is, in all countries, a savage. Until he gives up the chase and fixes himself in some place, and seeks a living from the earth, he is a roaming barbarian. When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of civilization."
~Daniel Webster

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