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CHEFS In Season: Cauliflower
Featured Cauliflower Recipes
About Cauliflower
The cauliflower is a mild-flavored member of the cabbage family. Its name comes from Italian cavolfiore, from cavolo (cabbage) and fiore (flower), referring to the large edible flower head. Closely related to broccoli, cauliflower similarly comes in large bunches of florets, which together form the flower, or curd. The flower is surrounded by leaves stemming from the base; the leaves are also edible, but have a longer cooking time and stronger flavor than the curd.

The cauliflower is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean regions, and was first introduced to France from Italy in the 16th century. Early recipes recommended boiling the cauliflower for up to two hours. As late as 1926, food writers were recommending that cauliflower be cooked for at least an hour. Modern cooks enjoy cauliflower roasted, boiled, fried, steamed, and eaten raw. Cauliflower also is frequently featured in casseroles, curries, soups and salads.

Almost all of the cauliflower grown in the United States comes from the Salinas Valley in California because of its ten-month growing season, moderate climate and rich soil. Other states where cauliflower is produced are Arizona, New York, Michigan, Oregon, Florida, Washington and Texas. Cauliflower is available all year long, but is most plentiful in the spring and fall.

Traditional varieties include Agrahani, Candid Charm, Hybrid White, Maghi, Mayflower, Mormon, Poushi, Snow Crown, Snow Grace, Snow White, Snowball, and Super Snowball.

Self-blanching varieties are Early Tuscan, Late Tuscan, and Self Blanche. This cauliflower has self-wrapping leaves which shield the snow-white curds from sun (called blanching by growers), thus the name Self Blanching Cauliflower

Heirloom varieties include All the Year Round, Early Pearl, Early Snowball, Igloo, Violetta Italia and Walcheren Winter.

Commercial varieties include Fremont, Igloo and Snow Crown.

Colored varieties include Alverda, Cheddar, Graffiti, Green Goddess, Minaret, Orange Bouquet, Purple Cape, Veronica and Vorda.

White—White cauliflower is the most common color of cauliflower. As the flower head develops, growers tie leaves over the edible portion (called blanching), preventing the development of color, in the same manner that white asparagus is made.

Orange—Orange cauliflower came from a natural mutant found in a cauliflower field in Canada in 1970, and today’s varieties became readily available in 2003. The original orange cauliflower was smaller and less favorable. Decades of crossbreeding have made the orange variety more similar to the common white cauliflower in taste and appearance. Varieties include Cheddar and Orange Bouquet.

Green—Green cauliflower comes in several varieties, some of which are natural mutations of cauliflower while some are a hybrid between cauliflower and broccoli, also called broccoflower. While similar in appearance to white cauliflower, the green cauliflower is less dense. It also has a slightly sweeter flavor when raw and has a milder flavor when cooked. It is available both with the normal curd shape and a variant spiky curd called Romanesco broccoli. Green-curded varieties include Alverda, Green Goddess and Vorda. Romanesco varieties include Minaret and Veronica.

Purple—Purple color in cauliflower is caused by the presence of the antioxidant group anthocyanins, a healthful antioxidant responsible for the purple color of cabbage and red onions,
among other foods. When cooked, the purple varieties of cauliflower may turn green. Varieties include Graffiti and Purple Cape. In Great Britain and southern Italy, a broccoli with tiny flower buds is sold as purple cauliflower; however, it is not the same as standard cauliflower with a purple curd.
Look for cauliflower that has thick, compact, heads of creamy white florets. The head should be heavy for its size and the leaves surrounding it should be bright green and not be showing signs of wilting. Avoid cauliflower that is blemished or whose florets have started to turn brown, which is a sign that the head is getting old. Check the bottom of the head; if it is soft, it is no longer fresh. If the florets have started to flower they are overripe. Keep in mind that the size of the cauliflower head is no sign of quality. Avoid 'blown' woolly heads, speckled patches on the curd or limp leaves. Yellow curds are caused by too much sun, rain or frost; however, the flavor should not be affected by the yellow discoloration. Colored cauliflowers should always be bright in color.
Cauliflower should be left unwashed when storing. Store whole in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days, with stem side down, in an open plastic bag or use a perforated plastic bag. Avoid excess moisture that will cause the cauliflower to deteriorate faster. Store pre-cut florets for up to 2 days in the refrigerator. If cauliflower is purchased as pre-cut florets, it will lose its freshness much faster. Cooked cauliflower should only be stored for 2 or 3 days in the refrigerator. Cauliflower can be blanched and then frozen and kept in the freezer for up to a year. Frozen cauliflower will be best incorporated into casseroles or soups, as the blanching, freezing and thawing process will leave the florets softer than fresh or freshly cooked.
Do not wash cauliflower until it is ready to be used. Remove any leaves from the stem end of the head. Cut off the stem end close to the head, separate into florets and rinse under cold running water. Trim off any brown spots. Cauliflower can be cooked whole as well and the florets separated after cooking.
A versatile vegetable, cauliflower can be enjoyed roasted, steamed, stir fried, deep fried, stewed, and boiled. Health conscious cooks wanting to reduce their intake of carbohydrates often use mashed cauliflower as an alternative to regular mashed potatoes.

Avoid overcooking cauliflower to prevent it from darkening or becoming tough or mushy. Avoid cooking cauliflower in an aluminum or iron pot to prevent the vegetable from reacting with the metal and becoming discolored.

To help preserve the white color, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of vinegar, or 1 cup of milk to the cooking water (adding milk will sweeten the flavor of the cooked cauliflower).

When cooking a whole head of cauliflower, trim away any other leaves and remove some of the core. Score the bottom of the remaining core with an “X”, approximately ½-inch deep, to help speed up cooking time.

Some varieties of colored cauliflower will cook quicker than regular white cauliflower. Additionally, some colored varieties may turn green when cooked.

A small head of cauliflower equals 1 to 1-1/2 pound of cauliflower, or approximately 1-1/2 cups chopped. One medium head will be
1-3/4 to 2-1/4 pounds, or 3 cups chopped. One 10-ounce package of frozen cauliflower will equal 2 cups chopped.

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