Cauliflowers – Healthy and not green
Brassica oleracea Botrytis group
We all know that vegetables are good for us. We all know we should probably eat more of them. Even most kids know that they should eat lots of them. However making this happen can be a real challenge. If you are like me and love the taste of most veggies it is not too hard.
The problem is so many of us are used to eating take away and highly processed foods where sugar, salt and a few other additives are too widely used so you have to get them out of your system. If you can slowly remove them from your diet you will rejuvenate your taste buds and all of a sudden veggies taste nice by themselves. Then you can add the salt and sugar back into you diet in moderation and when you choose it not when the manufacturer does.
Most veggies and herbs have a mixture of good things and the mix and ratios differ between various cultivars. One good rule of thumb is to have at least three colours on your plate. The different coloured products have different goodies so mixing the colours makes the plate more attractive and the benefits wider. Many of us do eat with our eyes so if the plate looks good we are more likely to eat what is on it.
Kids are the same. They are not born with a dislike of green things they just learn it. They do not naturally crave all the sweet lollies, soft drinks etc we just teach them to. So if we start them early on fresh, well cooked colourful veggies they will grow up with a taste for them. Most of my generation will remember many of our veggies as over cooked and bitter. I find many people say things like “I don’t eat asparagus” or “can’t stomach cauliflower”. This is usually due to them not having the food cooked well.
Cauliflower is a cultivar of the species Brassica oleracea which includes such staples as cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale etc. It is the highly deformed flower that is eaten, often called the ‘curd’. Traditionally it is pure white and quite firm. It is widely used around the world with some early notes of it appearing in Indian and Middle Eastern food around 1000 years ago.
Most forms of Brassica are easy to grow just requiring a moderate temperature range, ample moisture and a good food supply. Cauliflower is no different although it doesn’t like very hot or very cold. The trick is getting a good yield of head. This takes a bit more work. Plant in late winter or late summer with the aim of harvesting about 8-9 weeks later. The soft white curd or head is damaged by strong sun and once it gets to about 75mm across needs to be protected. Some forms have leaves that grown up over the head and shade it whilst other forms need to have the leaves tied over the top.
After tying the leaves it takes about a week for the head to come ready. Cut the stem with a large knife leaving several leaves at the base. These help protect the head and are quite tasty if steamed or baked. Once harvested the cauliflower will hold in the fridge or a week or two.
Like so many of this group of veggies the cauliflower is very high in Vitamin C and many chemicals that are well known to aid in cancer prevention and cure. The cauliflower is also excellent in helping the hard working liver rebuild itself. So the better we make it look and taste the better off we are. Also many of these beneficials are destroyed by over cooking and boiling so we are best to steam, fry or bake.
Cauliflower should be eaten at least once a week as it tastes great and is so good for you. Cutting into florets and steaming for about 3 mins is the best and simplest way to prepare it. However it also really nice baked with white sauce and parmesan cheese. Another simply way is to steam for a couple of minutes then put in the wok and toss in a mixture of garlic, olive oil and fresh basil. Finally a delightful salad is a mixture of even sized cauliflower and broccoli florets that are steamed for about 3 minutes (or until tender) allowed to cool then tossed in a mixture of olive oil, lime juice and caraway seeds. Serve with a garnish of parsley or celery leaf.
Over the past few years we have seen a surge of coloured vegetables come into the supermarkets. Purple carrots, blue potatoes, white zucchini, purple asparagus are but a few of the “new” forms. Most are not new and indeed some have been around for centuries. A couple that aren’t in the supermarket but are becoming available in nurseries are Cauliflower Cheddar and Graffitti. Next month we will look at where they have come from and how to use them.