This brassica vegetable gets its name from the Italian term cavolfiore, or “cabbage flower.” Historically, only the head of tiny florets (known as “curds”) has been eaten, but more recent cultivars have been bred for tender, sweeter stems. While its appearance is similar to broccoli, cauliflower’s taste is much subtler, with a nutty sweetness that is amplified when roasted.

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History

Cauliflower is believed to have originated on the island of Cyprus. Written about extensively in early botany texts, it was called “the most pleasant-tasting” of cabbages by Pliny the Elder. Cauliflower spread slowly across the European continent in the 16th century, always considered a delicacy in the garden and the kitchen, and became a favorite of France’s Louis XIV. Cauliflower was introduced to India in the early 19th century by British colonists, where it was quickly adopted into traditional recipes.

Nutrition

Cauliflower is high in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, folate, and Vitamin B6.

Storage

Whole, unwashed cauliflower can be stored for up to 7 days in a paper or plastic bag in the refrigerator. Keep the stem side down to avoid moisture build-up on the head.

Preparation

Along with being a standard ingredient in hearty winter soups and Indian dishes such as aloo gobi, cauliflower has earned a recent burst of popularity as a substitute for starchy side dishes such as pasta, rice, mashed potatoes, and potato fritters. Another popular preparation is quartering a whole head into cauliflower “steaks,” rubbing with a spice mix, roasting or grilling until tender, then serving with melted cheese or a flavorful sauce.

Cooking

Separate cauliflower into smaller florets, toss with olive oil and salt and spread in a single layer on a baking tray. Roast at 425 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring halfway through, until florets show some char and give off a popcorn-like smell. Remove and let cool, then combine with grated carrots, golden raisins, toasted sunflower seeds, and a dressing of olive oil, citrus, and curry powder. Serve cold, on its own, or over salad greens.

Pro Tips

To avoid an unpleasant odor and mushy texture, cooked cauliflower should be eaten within 2 to 3 days.

Color Cauliflower

These varieties of cauliflower come in vibrant green, purple, and orange hues. (Green is sometimes known as “broccoflower,” purple as “graffiti cauliflower,” and orange as “cheddar cauliflower.”) While they are the same as white cauliflower in taste and texture, these colorful varieties contain an extra boost of antioxidants.

Fioretti Cauliflower

A hybrid of cauliflower and broccoli that produces well-separated florets on top, leading to its alternate name of “flowering cauliflower.” The long, thin stems have a grassy-sweet taste and a yielding texture that doesn’t require peeling.

Song Cauliflower

Also known as Chinese cauliflower, this variety features pale green stems and loosely separated “curds” on top. Its sweet flavor, tender texture and longer stems make it particularly popular for eating raw with dips.

White Cauliflower

The most common variety of cauliflower is often the last vegetable selected on a crudité plate, thanks to its tough texture and the relative absence of flavor. But when roasted at high heat, white cauliflower reveals an irresistibly dry, nutty flavor almost like popcorn and a pleasantly crunchy texture.

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