Cauliflower

 

In the store, the gorgeous heads of ivory cauliflower look so pristine. Some can look like what’s in my garden right now – a little purple, a little green (due to exposure to sun, in my case) and the heads not as tight. I’m not sure how the organic professional farmers get such perfection. Practice, like most good things, right?

Cauliflower is a member of the cabbage family, along with cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, and bok choy. Cauliflower plants are usually started in a greenhouse from seeds. After 35 days the young plants are transplanted to the field. The cauliflower plant requires rich fertile soil, good moisture and cool temperatures to grow. After being transplanted to the field, the cauliflower plant grows for another 80 to 110 days, making the plants we transplanted at the beginning of July about a month past due (oops). I’ll bet the flowers will be an added bonus to our less than perfect crop.

As the plant grows, a flower bud forms in the center of the plant. It is very important to protect the developing cauliflower from the sun while it grows by folding the large outer leaves of the plant over the head of cauliflower (it’s like creating a tent with leaves) to protect it from the sunlight. Some varieties are self-blanching, but not the one’s we planted, unfortunately. This prevents the cauliflower from turning yellow. The yellow may not look as appealing, but it doesn’t compromise the taste or edibility. The green cauliflower in the supermarket is a newish variety, that is a cross between white cauliflower and broccoli.

 

Cauliflower contains high doses of Vitamin C, potassium and fiber. It also has folacin (or folic acid), a B vitamin that is essential for cell growth and reproduction.

 

Cauliflower is available year-round, but especially plentiful in the Spring and Fall. When buying cauliflower, select one that is white or creamy white in color, firm, and heavy. Cauliflower may be stored for up to one week in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Keep it dry. Don’t wash it until you are ready to eat it. Any brownish colored bruises may be trimmed away before cooking.

 

When I was young, cauliflower was not in my diet at all – it was a foreign mystery. Once I was introduced there was no turning back. I like it steamed with butter, salt and pepper; with melted cheddar on top; or in a vegetable curry over rice. A couple of winters ago I embellished some chicken broth with Indian spices and chick peas, cauliflower, carrots, onions and garlic for a tasty stew. And, of course, added from the garden some hot red pepper flakes and a few slices of jalapeno and habaneros for some winter heat. It’s coming.