If, like many people, you grew up eating over steamed, mushy cauliflower you may find the vegetable quite underwhelming. It may surprise you to hear that it’s becoming the new darling of the vegetable world. With it’s versatility and nutrition, many are calling cauliflower the new kale. So, what’s all the all they hype? Is it just good marketing or are we finally just giving cauliflower the attention it deserves?
As part cruciferous or brassica group of vegetables, cauliflower is related to broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard greens and watercress among others. Although, most commonly seen in the white variety, cauliflower also comes in purple, green and orange. No matter the variety, only the head (also called the curd) is eaten while the leaves and tough stem are discarded.
Cauliflower packs a powerful nutritional punch providing vitamin C, potassium, folate, vitamin K and fiber. Like its cruciferous cousins, cauliflower contains a group of phytonutrients called glucosinolates. Glucosinolates are responsible for the distinctive sulfur-like smell associated with the brassicaceae family. Fortunately, these compounds do more than just create a pungent aroma. Studies show they have anti-cancer properties.
Selecting a Good Cauliflower
Although cauliflower will likely be available in your local supermarket all year round, they will typically be their best (and cheapest) while in season. Depending on the part of the world, fresh cauliflower will generally hit the shelves anywhere between June and August and be available through December. To select a good cauliflower, look for a creamy white colour with a firm texture and tightly compressed curds. Any attached leaves should be bright green and should extend to top of the head.
Store unwashed, in a plastic bag or vegetable crisper with the stem facing upwards. Fresh cauliflower can last up to 2 weeks in the fridge. Cauliflower can also be frozen and will keep well for 9-12 months if blanched and sealed in an airtight plastic bag.
Preparation and Cooking
Peel cauliflower leaves, and remove stem. Cut the cauliflower head into smaller white florets and wash well under running water. At this point, the cauliflower can be eaten raw or cooked.
Nutritionally, cauliflower shares many similarities with the other cruciferous vegetables, however, with respect to versatility, one could argue that cauliflower is way more versatile. Here are just some of the ways cauliflower can be used:
- The simplest way to cook cauliflower is steaming it lightly. It’s best to avoid boiling as many of the water soluble nutrients and the cancer-fighting glycosinolates are lost.
- Indulge in some oven roasted cauliflower.
- Enjoy on a steaming hot bowl of cauliflower soup either as a chunky form or blended to create a thicker, cream-like texture.
- Create a kick-ass vegetarian curry that will satisfy even the pickiest carnivore.
- Mash it to substitute for mashed potatoes.
- Use a food processor to make cauliflower rice, fried rice or risotto.
- Make crispy, gluten-free pizza crust or “breadsticks".
- Snack on a healthy cauliflower dip.
- Enjoy it for breakfast as part of super nutritious cauliflower pancakes.
- Savour fresh grilled cauliflower steaks.
- Devour some cauliflower buffalo "wings".
If you haven’t already, maybe it is time to embrace cauliflower’s newfound popularity. It's unknown whether or not the spike in popularity of this humble vegetable is due to great marketing. Nonetheless, cauliflower is a great addition to your vegetable repertoire both with respect to its nutrition and versatility.