Cauliflower is very similar to its broccoli cousin in appearance. The head – called a “curd” – is made up of a central stalk with offshoot stems. Each cluster (called a floret or floweret) is formed from unopened buds.
It is the “jacket leaves” that protect common cauliflower’s white color. As the plant grows, the outer leaves encase the head, protecting from the sun and preventing chlorophyll development.
- White cauliflower is the most common, but other varieties are often available.
- Green - Hybrids known as broccoflower and Romanesco. These have been crossed with broccoli and are different in appearance. Higher protein and Vitamin C than whites.
- Purple – Requires less cooking time than whites. If overcooked will turn green.
- Orange – Also called “golden.” When cooked, it retains the color, which makes it a nice companion for white foods. Very high in Vitamin A.
Heads rated small, medium, and large do not differ in taste.
Fresh cauliflower will be creamy white with bright leaves and a firm stem. The florets should be tightly closed with no signs of flowering. Green shoots emerging on the head are acceptable. The large outer leaves are commonly trimmed before shipping.
Refrigerate in the original wrapper or in an open plastic bag, stem side down. Use within 5-7 days. Pre-cut florets should be used within 2-3 days.
Cauliflower may also be blanched and frozen for up to 1 year.
- Soak in water, saltwater, or vinegar just before using to dislodge any pests.
- The stems and leaves can also be cooked, but generally, it is the florets that are used. When trimming, leave some of the stem to keep tips intact.
- To diffuse some of the cauliflower flavor – and to make it slightly sweet – add milk when boiling.
- If cooking cauliflower with other vegetables, parboil first. Add a bay leaf to reduce odor.
- Nonreactive pots will keep white cauliflower from changing color.
- One pound raw equals about one cup cooked.
• Broccoli in most recipes.