Cauliflower is an annual plant that reproduces by seed. The head is composed of a white inflorescence meristem. It resembles those in broccoli, which differs in having flower buds as the edible portion. The plant reaches about1.5 feet tall and has large rounded leaves that resemble collards. Pretty much everyone knows the creamy-white cauliflower that we see in most grocery stores. But it actually comes in 3 other eye-catching colors – orange, purple, and green. All of the variants have more or less the same level of nutrients, except for the differing level of plant pigments.
Species: Brassica oleracea
Binomial name: Brassica oleracea var. botrytis
- The word “cauliflower” derives from the Italian Caoli Fiori, meaning “cabbage flower.”
- Cauliflower can be used as an alternative for rice.
- Pliny the Elder, a Roman writer, and naturalist, first described cauliflower in the first century A.D.
- A single floret contains 10% of your daily Vitamin C need
- A large cauliflower has fewer calories than a muffin
- King Louis XIV loved cauliflower and demanded it is served at all state dinners.
- The flower heads are sometimes called curds.
- Sunlight can give a yellow tint to the cauliflower.
When buying cauliflower, look for densely packed florets that have a creamy white color and free of blemishes or wet spots. The head of the cauliflower should feel heavy in your hand for its size. The leaves should be crisp, clean, fresh, and vibrant, which is a sign that the cauliflower was recently harvested. If the cauliflower has an overpowering smell, it means it’s past its prime, and it will probably have an unpleasant taste.
If you are buying purple, green, or orange cauliflower at the farmer’s markets, the cauliflower should be uniformly colored.
Production & Farming in Texas
Cauliflower has a reputation of being difficult to grow, but it is actually easily grown in Texas as its close relative, cabbage. The preferred time to grow it in Texas is during the fall for a winter harvest because these are a cool-season crop that requires more precise temperatures for quality products than its relatives. The optimal temperature range must be between 65 and 68° F. It is extremely sensitive to unfavorable conditions, such as unusually hot weather, drought, or too low temperature.
In 2016, it was produced on approximately 37,000 acres, and the number of US farms producing cauliflower has increased in the last five years. Based on the most recent production and price averages, the estimated gross value per acre is $10,540. The costs of production of cauliflower vary depending on the production location, weather, and other factors. It is particularly labor-intensive with hand-labor needed for blanching, harvest, and post-harvest handling and packaging.
Among major pests affecting cauliflower are aphids, root maggots, cutworms, moths, and flea beetles. The plant is susceptible to black rot, blackleg, clubroot, black leaf spot, and downy mildew.
Cauliflower originated in the Mediterranean region since the greatest range of variability in the wild types of B. oleracea is found there. It originated on the island of Cyprus from where it moved to other areas like Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Italy, Spain, and northwestern Europe. The cabbage was used in Asia for many centuries before being introduced to Europe in the 16th Century. In North America, cabbage did not become widely grown until the 1900s. Today, with a ten-month growing period, California produces the largest with 89% of cauliflower in the United States.
After harvesting, the outer leaves of cauliflowers are removed. They are sorted and graded based on defined standards of quality. It is done in a packing area equipped with sorting tables, weighing scales, or a sorting device. Without washing, they are packed in different packaging films and stored at 0 ± 1°C.
Cauliflower curds are packed individually in high-density polyethylene bags with perforation. It was observed that storage in perforated polythene bag prolonged the shelf life of the cauliflowers and helped to maintain the highest physical appearance, acceptability, and economic return of cauliflower. The use of cling wrap films should be avoided because it leads to the accumulation of excessive moisture resulting in huge spoilage loss.
Cauliflower has become popular because of its versatility in taste and ease of cooking. The overall taste can be described as a little nutty and a little sweet. It has a crunchy texture, and the taste is mild enough to blend well with many other dishes. Over time, it has gained a whole new culinary appeal and is used in a variety of cuisines all over the world.
When you get it home from the market or grocery, unwrap the cauliflower immediately and transfer it to a loosely sealed plastic bag with a paper towel tucked in to absorb any excess moisture. In this way, you can store whole heads of cauliflower can be kept in the refrigerator for 4 to 7 days, while pre-cut florets should be stored for no more than four days.
Before cooking, cut the head of cauliflower into florets, depending on how you will cook it. You can include the stalk and leaves since they are edible and quite delicious. Just peel and cut the stalks, about the same size as the florets, to ensure even cooking. Rinse the cut up pieces of cauliflower in a colander to remove any residual dirt. Then use a paper towel or a clean kitchen towel to pat them dry before cooking.
The possibilities are limitless when it comes to cauliflower recipes. Since it is so adaptable, it is easy to create many delicious cauliflower meals. I can be cooked using several methods like microwaving, steaming, boiling, sautéing, and stir-frying.
Tip: Cauliflower should be cooked until they are tender-crisp. If it is cooked too long, the florets will fall apart and become mushy.
Cauliflower is considered one of the healthiest foods because it’s an excellent source of natural antioxidants; it provides high levels of vitamins and minerals; it is low in carbohydrates and high in fiber.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamin B6: It is essential for blood formation and energy metabolism.
Vitamin C: It is necessary for the growth, development, and repair of all body tissues.
Calcium: To build and maintain strong bones.
Iron: Helps to preserve many vital functions in the body, including universal energy and focus, gastrointestinal processes, the immune system, and the regulation of body temperature.
Magnesium: It is essential for healthy bone structure in the body.
When Are Cauliflower in Season in Texas?
To find out when Cauliflower are in season in Texas, please check the seasonal chart below. Why is this important? We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas now.