The cauliflower is a mild-flavored member of the cabbage family. Its name comes from Italian cavolfiore,
(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,