Cauliflower is indeed, a flower. It grows
from a plant that, in its early stages, resembles broccoli,
its closest relative. Like broccoli, cauliflower is a cruciferous
vegetable; members of this family have been associated with
reducing the risk of cancer. However, while broccoli opens outward
to sprout bunches of green florets, cauliflower forms a compact
head of undeveloped white flower buds. As it grows on a single
stalk, the head (known as the "curd") is surrounded
by heavily ribbed green leaves that protect it from sunlight,
so that the flower buds never develop chlorophyll. With some
types of cauliflower, however, the head pokes through the leaves
and the grower periodically will tie the leaves over the head
to shield it from the sun. Otherwise, exposure to sunlight would
discolour the florets and also cause them to develop an undesirable
Select clean, firm, compact heads that are white or creamy white.
(The size of the head doesn't affect its quality.) Any leaves
that remain should be green and crisp. Avoid heads with major
spots, speckles, bruises, or loose, open floret clusters. Some
stores also sell packaged florets that have been trimmed off
the head, and these, too, should be free of bruises or spots.
Small leaves growing between the florets are not a sign of poor
quality; just pull them out before you cook the cauliflower.
A medium-sized head is 6" in diameter
and weighs about 1Kg and is enough to serve four to six people
after trimming off the leaves and stem. The leaves are also
Store cauliflower in the refrigerate, where it will keep for
up to five days (although you should eat it as soon as possible
for the best flavour). If the head is unwrapped, store it in
an open or perforated plastic bag. Keep the head stem-side up
to prevent moisture from collecting on top. Precut florets don't
keep well, so use them within a day of purchase.
The head can be easily separated into florets for serving raw
or cooked. For cooking, you can also leave the head whole; however,
it takes longer to cook than the florets and so more nutrients
may be lost.
First, trim the cauliflower: Pull off any
outer leaves and cut off the protruding stem end close to the
head. If you find that the florets have started to turn brown
at the edges, trim off these areas. To cook the head whole,
trim the stem even with the bottom of the head of cauliflower.
To prepare florets, slice off the florets around the inner core.
Split any larger florets in half and slice up the inner core
Like broccoli, cauliflower contains plant
acids that form odorous sulphur compounds as the vegetable is
heated; these odours become more intense the longer the cauliflower
cooks. Rapid cooking not only reduces the odours, but keeps
the texture crisp, preserves the vegetable's colour, and reduces
the loss of nutrients. Cook until crisp-tender, but be aware
that cooking times vary considerably, depending upon the size
of the head or florets.