“A cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a college education.” — Mark Twain
There are several fad diets that tell you to avoid any white or colorless food, but the lowly cauliflower is a potent exception. Cauliflower ranks among the top 20 foods in regards to ANDI score (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index), which measures vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient content in relation to caloric content. To earn high rank, a food must provide a high amount of nutrients for a small amount of calories.
“It’s absolutely everywhere,” says Elena North-Kelly, managing editor at the James Beard Foundation, a culinary arts organization. “Cauliflower’s moved from the boring side dish, and now we’re seeing it take on a starring role.” The boom is thanks to converging culinary trends: low-carb, gluten-free, and healthful eating, which often means vegetarian. “It’s similar to what we saw with kale a few years ago,” says Erik Brown, global produce buyer for Whole Foods. And the vegetable’s popularity is reflected on BuzzFeed’s Tasty channel, which posts dozens of DIY options—cauliflower mac and cheese, pizza with cauliflower crust, etc.—to Facebook feeds, where they’ve been viewed hundreds of thousands of times each.
For cauliflower converts, there are two types of recipes: ones that use the vegetable as is, and ones in which it replaces meat or bread. Cauliflower-as-staple-substitute recipes range in authenticity, from Buffalo cauliflower (definitely not a chicken wing, but still spicy and delicious) to cauliflower grilled cheese, in which grated cauliflower “bread” patties supposedly hold the sandwich together.
As part of the brassica family, more commonly known as cruciferous vegetables, cauliflower contains antioxidants and phytonutrients that can protect against cancer, fiber that helps with satiety, weight loss and a healthy digestive tract, choline that is essential for learning and memory as well as many other important nutrients.
If cauliflower isn't your favorite vegetable, don't worry. You can get many of these same benefits by eating other members of the cruciferous vegetable family. Broccolii is one of them, but there are others too, including:
|Cabbage||Bok choy||Chinese cabbage|
A Little Cauliflower History
Cauliflower is believed to have originated in ancient Asia Minor in the northeastern part of the Mediterranean.
The earliest record dates back to the sixth century BC, but some texts corresponding to the second century also mention this vegetable.
Written by Pliny, they show how cauliflower was even present in the Roman era.
According to European writers of the Middle Ages, cauliflower cultivation in Turkey and Egypt had been known for at least two thousand years.
By the Middle Ages, Arab growers had developed numerous varieties of cauliflower.
As a result, three varieties of the plant were discovered in Spain during the 12th century, which were introduced from Syria.
The Syrians had been cultivating cauliflower for over a millennium before introducing them to Spain.
According to writings of Arab botanists, the Arabs believed that cauliflower had originated from Cyprus.
It was popular in Europe, specifically in France in the 16th century, and later in England as well.
The English named it “Cyprus coleworts,” alluding to its recent introduction from the island of Cyprus.
Cauliflower was being imported from the East on a large scale by the sixteenth century and was very popular in the French court, especially during the reign of Louis XIV.
This vegetable was featured in elaborate dishes with foie gras, cream, truffles, and sweetbreads.
Methods of cultivation significantly improved after 1700, and by the late eighteenth century, cauliflower was highly regarded throughout Europe.
Even though cauliflower was mentioned in American writings as early as the 1800s, its cultivation in the United States did not begin until the twentieth century.
More precisely, it was only in the 1920s that cauliflower became commercially available.
Today, cauliflower is used in a number of dishes.
In India, it is included in a curry made out of potatoes and onions.
Eastern Europeans love thick cauliflower soups.
In Sardinia, they make a salad out of this “pale” flower and combine it with garlic, olive oil, and capers.
Significant growers of cauliflower include France, Italy, India, the United States, and China.