Cauliflower is a “blanched vegetable”,
one that is covered to guard it from the sun and keep it from making
chlorophyll, thus maintaining a milky white color. Modern varieties are
self-blanching, meaning that the leaves fold naturally over the
developing flower, or curd. Old time farmers often had to tie the
leaves over the immature curd to keep out the sun.
Today’s cauliflower can be white, light green (almost chartreuse), or
purple. The green variety is actually a hybrid of cauliflower and
broccoli and is available in some markets under the name ”broccoflower”.
This variety is not blanched and is easier to cultivate. It is less
aggressive in flavor and has a tendency to cook more quickly than the
white. The purple head is delicious in crudités platters, salads, bagna
cauda, or other recipes in which it will be used raw, since the purple
color disappears if it is cooked, and the flowerets turn dark green.
This is one of those vegetables that has been in American markets only
about a hundred years. For some it is an acquired taste, one that
becomes palatable only if it is masked with a sauce, most commonly
cheese. You rarely see a whole boiled or steamed curd anymore. They
were popular twenty five years ago, especially when topped with
buttered bread crumbs or a brown butter sauce. A whole cooked
cauliflower is still an impressive presentation.
Cauliflower is a member of the cruciferous family, and it offers
several health benefits. Cauliflower nutrition including low in sodium and calories, cauliflower
contains large amounts of vitamin C and potassium. It is also a good
sauce of absorbable calcium and can bolster the calcium intake of
people who avoid dairy products.