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Cauliflower is the flower of the Brassica oleracea L. plant which belongs to the cruciferous family such as broccoli, cabbage, watercress, rocket, Brussels sprouts, etc.
Cauliflower is cultivated for its large and tasty inflorescence and it needs a lot of care compared to other cabbage varieties.
There are a few varieties of cauliflower that can be distinguished based on their period of maturation, from late September to winter ones or up to the spring ones of March-May, and based on their color: white, green, violet.
There are conflicting ideas about the origins of cauliflower. According to some botanists it originated from the Middle East, while other sources suggest has European origins. It is certain that it was already known and appreciated by the Romans, who knew its therapeutic virtues and consumed it raw, before banquets, to slow down the absorption of alcohol. The beneficial effects deriving from the consumption of cauliflowers were also known in the 1500s when, together with other vegetables of the cruciferous family, were embarked on ships on their way to discover America to prevent scurvy, caused by the deficiency of vitamin C.
Cauliflower is an annual plant that reproduces by seed. It is important not to delay the sowing that should be done in spring, as their growing period is very long. It is possible to obtain a continuous harvest for almost the entire year if you carefully choose the varieties, based on their adaptability to the climate and position.
The sowing of early varieties should be done at the end of summer in open ground, then the plants will have to be moved in boxes during the winter, and then transplanted in March. To harvest between late summer and early fall need to start planting from the end of March to May.
Another way is to sow in a germinator under a greenhouse in January and transplant the seedlings in the open field in April.
It does not like foggy areas, it is quite resistant to cold, but its ideal climate is temperate.
The soil must be dug deep and well compacted and fertilized. Too acidic soil hinders growth and favors the attack of pests.
The early varieties can be harvested in June. The harvest should be done when the inflorescences are fairly developed but not yet opened. In temperate-warm climates, you should check it frequently as in the final stage the growth is accelerated. The ideal time for harvesting is early in the morning.
If the production is abundant it is possible to collect the cauliflower and protect it with its leaves, the maturation in this case will be prolonged for 2-3 days. Another technique is to completely eradicate the plant, place it upside down in a cool, dry place and carry out the same operation covering the inflorescence with the leaves, in this way they will be preserved for about 3 weeks.
Cauliflower it is a truly precious ingredient in the kitchen: it is cheap and can be used in many different ways, to prepare recipes ranging from appetizers to side dishes.
The cauliflower produces a bad smell during cooking. This is due to the presence of sulfur compounds inside the vegetable that are released during the cooking phase, generating the typical smell of cabbage. Sulfur is however important for our body and it would be good to limit the cooking time or steam the cauliflower to avoid losing too much sulfur.
Cauliflower is a vegetable that lends itself to different cooking methods and to many preparations: it can be roasted, grilled, boiled, fried, steamed, pickled; its inflorescences can also be eaten raw in salads, while the inner part must still be cooked.
Cauliflower can be used to prepare soups or creams, it can become an excellent side dish or a tasty appetizer. Blended or coarsely chopped, it can be used to flavor a pasta dish. It goes very well with savory cured meats, such as speck, bacon and ham and with spices like curcuma or saffron.
Over the course of history, cauliflower and other cruciferous have been widely used for their health-promoting potential. For example, cauliflower was recommended as a laxative, to prevent lung problems and rheumatism.
Cauliflower is very rich in water, more than 90% but with a significant energy value, 25-30 calories for 100 g and 2% protein. It has a good content in vitamin C, potassium, phosphorus and calcium. It has a high fiber content: 9.6 per 100 kcal.
However, the health effects from the consumption of cruciferous derive from their content in sulfur compounds. Numerous scientific researches have confirmed that the protective action deriving from the assumption of cruciferous against some types of cancer, derives precisely from these compounds, responsible for the characteristic odor during cooking. In fact, sulfur compounds facilitate the elimination of toxic and possibly carcinogenic substances at the cellular level, thus carrying out an anti-tumor activity. To the family of cruciferous belong vegetables that are eaten both raw and cooked. In particular, it is from raw vegetables that the anti-tumor effect is obtained and it is considerably reduced while cooking. As much as possible, it would be preferable to consume these vegetables raw, in order not to lose their positive properties.
Raw it is high in vitamin C, 73.5% of the nutritional values of reference, but in any case it preserves 35% also cooked. Vitamin C contributes to the normal formation of collagen, gums, skin and teeth, contributes to normal energy metabolism, the normal function of the nervous system, the immune system and psychological function. In addition, it protects cells from oxidative stress, reduces fatigue, increases iron absorption and contributes to the regeneration of vitamin E.
The top producing countries of cauliflower are China, India and United States, followed by Europe: Spain, Italy and France.
According to USDA ERS 2018, total annual consumption of cauliflower in the United States in 2017 was approximately 3 kg or 6.6 pounds of fresh and 1 kg or 2.2 pounds of frozen per person.
California, including the central coast: Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz Counties, the south coast: Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties, the San Joaquin Valley (Tulare, Fresno, Stanislaus and San Joaquin Counties) and the southern deserts: Riverside and Imperial Counties, is the major cauliflower producing state in the United States, with about 90% of the supply, Arizona comes second, followed by New York, Washington and Texas.
Join me next time and let’s discover California, the Golden State and its amazing culinary experiences.
And until then start creating your moments of pleasure with wonderful tableware
And if you would like to discover more about our food, you may enjoy my previous posts
- Discovering our food: Grapes
- Discovering our food: Eggplants
- Discovering our food: Parsley
- Discovering our food: Zucchini
- Discovering our food: Watermelon
- Discovering our food: Tomatoes
- Discovering our food: Basil
Thank you all for reading 😉
Photo credit: Google Images, Pexels, edited by Popsicle Society