Many of us have memories of being kids sitting at the kitchen table, listening to our parents tell us for the thousandth time to “eat your vegetables.” However, as time passes, most of us come around to eating our vegetables, as we are aware of the countless benefits they have for our health. Let’s look at the best way to cook cauliflower, and answer some other common questions about this wonderful vegetable.
Cauliflower is one of the world’s most nutrient-dense vegetables, and it’s readily available for us to enjoy. If you’re someone who has long admired cauliflower in all its various incarnations, or if you are curious yet cautious about giving this wondrous cousin of broccoli a try, make sure you give this article a read to find out more about this supremely nutritious vegetable.
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“What is cauliflower, really? I read it was in the Kale family?”
This question came in from Lenny F. of Los Angeles, CA.
Answer: Cauliflower is, in many ways, similar to other extremely healthy vegetables, such as kale, cabbage, and broccoli. It is a part of the cruciferous vegetable family, which also includes bok choy, radishes, and Brussels sprouts. “Crucifers” are characterized by the fact that their flowers have four petals, in some ways resembling a cross or crucifix. Cauliflower is incredibly dense in all types of nutrients, some of which have cancer-preventing properties.
“I just saw some purple cauliflower at the store—what’s up with that?”
This question is from Janet H. of Tampa, FL.
Answer: Not surprisingly, purple cauliflower is the same as your basic white cauliflower with the exception of having a beautiful, vibrant, violet color. This purple tinge is a visual clue to the presence of an antioxidant known as anthocyanin, which can also be found in red cabbage, as well as in a glass of red wine. Purple cauliflower has all the same health benefits and cancer-fighting properties of regular cauliflower, with the added benefit of the extra antioxidant boost. You can also sometimes find orange and yellow cauliflower at the local market.
“How does cauliflower help prevent cancer?”
This question came in from Paula P. of Littlerock, AR.
Answer: Cauliflower helps your body prevent cancer by helping to reinforce your body’s natural detoxifying process. It’s also high in antioxidants, and it acts as an anti-inflammatory. If the body loses its balance by becoming overrun with toxins or is low in antioxidants, cells are more likely to become damaged or tired, opening a doorway for cancers to possibly develop. Cauliflower in particular is useful in the prevention of bladder, breast, colon, prostate, and ovarian cancer.
“What vitamins are found in cauliflower?”
This question is from Yak S. of Turtle, MN.
Answer: Cauliflower is so beneficial to your health because it is rich in essential vitamins such as vitamin C and vitamin K. Cauliflower is also a very dense source of fiber, manganese, and antioxidants, all of which are important in maintaining good health. These components all work synergistically to help your body run at an optimum level if consumed as part of a healthy and balanced diet.
“What parts of the cauliflower do I eat?”
This question came in from Samuel J. of Santa Clause, AZ.
Answer: Traditionally, most people will eat the cauliflower florets, which are essentially the white, bulbous parts of the plant. However, both the stem and leaves are also edible and rich in nutrients. If the stems and leaves don’t appeal to you, make sure you either dump them into your compost bin or, better yet, toss them into your chicken coop—your girls will love munching on your leftover cauliflower treats! Personally, I love to use the stems of cauliflower and broccoli to make coleslaw.
“How often should I eat cauliflower?”
This question is from Joe R. of Austin, TX.
Answer: It is recommended that you eat cauliflower or other cruciferous plants approximately 2 to 3 times per week. In terms of serving size, it is recommended that you eat around 1-1/2 cups per serving. This being said, it is imperative that you prepare cauliflower in the right way—otherwise you may accidentally cook off some of the nutrients. See the next question for preparation tips.
“What is the best way to cook cauliflower?”
This question came in from Barb G. of Lacroix, LA.
Answer: While most of us are accustomed to eating boiled cauliflower, this isn’t the best way to take advantage of the veggie’s enormous health benefits. Steaming, boiling, and roasting cauliflower may be delicious, but these methods cook off a lot of the essential nutrients that your body thrives on. One of the most beneficial ways to cook your cauliflower is as follows:
• Add approximately 5 Tbsp. of vegetable or chicken broth (or just plain water) to a stainless steel skillet.
• Turn the heat on and wait for the broth or water to begin to bubble.
• Add the cauliflower florets to the skillet, along with a little bit of turmeric.
• Cover the skillet and let it cook for approximately 5 minutes.
• Take the skillet off the heat, serve and enjoy.
Cooking cauliflower with a little turmeric is both easy and delicious.
“How do I pick the best quality cauliflower?”
This question is from Hap J. of Austin, TX.
Answer: Picking the right cauliflower is as easy as feeling for the right avocado. It just requires a little bit of patience, determination, and knowledge. Here is what you should look for when selecting the best quality cauliflower:
• Check to see if the cauliflower has a dense, heavy, satiny stem.
• Inspect the leaves surrounding the florets to be sure they are fresh and green.
• Look for a cauliflower that appears tight, compact, and slightly heavy for its size.
• Warning signs of an inferior cauliflower include dark spots on the stems or leaves, as well as the presence of mildew.
It can sometimes be difficult to find a truly remarkable cauliflower in your standard grocery store, which is why many people opt to get this veggie from farmer’s markets or community gardens, or even to grow their own.
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Grow Your Own Cauliflower at Home
If you have gardening experience, growing your own cauliflower will be a reasonably easy endeavor. There are just a few basic principles you will need to consider:
• Like most plants, cauliflower is easily grown from a single seed.
• Cauliflower thrives in moist, compost-enriched soil.
• If you are planting your cauliflower in a nursery bed, ensure that you sow the seeds about 1/2-inch deep and 5 inches apart from one another.
• Always ensure that the soil is moist during cauliflower’s 10-12 week growing period.
• Transplant seedlings from the nursery bed once the plants have developed 4-6 healthy-looking leaves. Once transplanted, ensure each cauliflower plant is at least 2 feet apart from the next.
Though avid gardeners will have their own tips and hints, the basics for growing cauliflower are relatively simple. Ensuring that you have a healthy supply of compost is the perfect way to give your cauliflower crop a boost.
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The Cauliflower Renaissance
I love cauliflower. It has really entered a renaissance recently and cooks—professional to amateur—are finding many different ways to put a creative spin on how they prepare, cook, and present this anything-but-boring vegetable.
One popular trend at the moment is cauliflower pizza crust, which is as delicious and crispy as it sounds. All you need to do is simply process the cauliflower down into a fine purée, pack it down flat onto a standard pizza tray, and bake it briefly in the oven. Top with all your favorite pizza toppings, like tomatoes, basil, and oregano, and—voilà—your cauliflower pizza is ready to go!
But it doesn’t stop there: cauliflower tacos, parmesan cauliflower bites, honey lime cauliflower “wings,” and substituting finely-chopped cauliflower for rice in a stir-fry are all wonderful ways to use this unique and very healthy vegetable. There have never been more reasons to eat your vegetables—especially if we’re talking about cauliflower!
What Do You Think?
What’s your favorite way to cook and eat cauliflower? Let us know in the comments below!
The Grow Network is a global network of people who produce their own food and medicine. We’re the coolest bunch of backyard researchers on Earth! We’re constantly sharing, discovering, and working together to test new paths for sustainable living—while reconnecting with the “old ways” that are slipping away in our modern world. We value soil, water, sunlight, simplicity, sustainability, usefulness, and freedom. We strive to produce, prepare, and preserve our own food and medicine, and we hope you do, too!