A vegetable that consists of undeveloped white florets attached to a single stem that form a compact, cabbage-like head, called a curd. The curd is generally 6 to 7 inches in diameter. The white head is surrounded by long green leaves that are attached to the stem. These leaves protect the cauliflower from the sunlight, preventing chlorophyll from developing in the cauliflower. Because the head is protected by the leaves, the head stays white. The older varieties of cauliflower had to have the leaves tied up around the curd to protect it but now varieties have been developed where the leaves grow up and around the curd to protect it without tying. Cauliflower is closely related to broccoli but has a denser, more compact head, and it is most often white. It has a creamy, sweet, slightly nutty flavor and even though the florets are the most common part of the cauliflower that is eaten, the stem and leaves are also edible.
How to use: The leaf, stalk and florets can be eaten raw or cooked. Raw, it is eaten on its own accompanied by a dip or cut up and added to salads. When cooked, it can be eaten as a side dish, alone or topped with a sauce, such as au gratin, hollandaise, or Mornay. It is also often added to other dishes, such as stir fries, pasta, quiches, omelets, soups, and stews. Cauliflower can be interchanged for broccoli in most recipes.
At their best: Cauliflower is available year-round. Peak seasons are generally in the spring and fall, depending on the climate in that region.
How to buy: When selecting, look for thick, compact, heads of creamy white florets. The head should be heavy for its size and the leaves surrounding it should be bright green and not be showing signs of wilting. Avoid cauliflower that is blemished or whose florets have started to turn brown, which is a sign that the head is getting old. Check the bottom of the head, if it is soft, it is no longer fresh. If the the florets have started to flower they are overripe. Keep in mind that the size of the cauliflower head is no sign of quality.
Storage: Cauliflower should be left unwashed when storing. Store in the refrigerator, with stem side down, in an open plastic bag or use a perforated plastic bag. This will avoid excess moisture, which causes the cauliflower to deteriorate faster. Store for 5 to 7 days. If cauliflower is purchased as precut florets it will lose its freshness much faster. Store precut florets for up to 2 days. Cooked cauliflower should only be stored for 2 or 3 days in the refrigerator. Cauliflower can be blanched and then frozen and kept in the freezer for up to a year.
A vegetable that is a cross between broccoli and cauliflower. Its appearance is the same as cauliflower except it is light, bright green in color. It has a slightly sweeter taste than regular cauliflower when eaten raw and when cooked, its taste is similar to broccoli. It can be prepared, cooked, and served in the same way you would regular cauliflower.
Most generally referred to as broccoli. This is the most popular and most commonly found broccoli. It consists of dark green clusters of buds, known as florets, which grow on branching arms that connect to a thick leafy stalk. It is also referred to as Calabrese.
An orange colored cauliflower that is a new variety that became available in some supermarkets and farmers' markets in the fall of 2003. It is very similar to regular white cauliflower in taste and appearance except it is bright orange in color. The first variety of orange cauliflower, which was smaller and not as flavorful, was discovered in Canada in 1970 but it took decades of crossbreeding to finally develop the variety that is now available. Because of its high content of beta-carotene, orange cauliflower's vitamin A content is approximately 25 times higher than white cauliflower. Its color and nutritional value are two characteristics that will make this a poplular vegetable choice.
This variety of cauliflower has a purple colored curd rather than white as on regular cauliflower. It cooks faster than white cauliflower and has a little milder taste. When cooked, its color changes from purple to green. Purple cauliflower can be substituted for white in most recipes.