Cauliflower is one of several vegetables in the species Brassica oleracea, in the family Brassicaceae. It is an annual plant that reproduces by seed. Typically, only the head (the white curd) is eaten while the stalk and surrounding thick, green leaves are used in vegetable broth or discarded. Cauliflower is very nutritious, and may be eaten cooked, raw or pickled.
Its name is a variation of cole flower or kale flower (cole and kale being variations of the same word), an acknowledgment of its unusual place among a family of food plants which normally produces only leafy greens for eating. Brassica oleracea also includes cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli and collard greens, though they are of different cultivar groups.
The preferred garden soil for cauliflower is well drained, moist and has significant organic matter with a pH of 6 to 7. Cauliflower is typically started indoors six to eight weeks prior to setting out in the garden and is typically ready for harvest two months after transplanting. As with all brassicas, seeds germinate best with a soil temperature of 25 °C (77 °F). The vegetable requires a cool, moist climate - if temperatures go too high, the plants will not produce flower heads, if too low a temperature is reached, the plants might button, creating small heads. It is cold tolerant, but will not survive hard frosts. Of all the brassicas, cauliflowers have the largest number of growth requirements, and the ability to successfully grow cauliflower in a home garden is often thought to be the hallmark of well-managed soil and a good gardener.
The most common insect pests of cauliflower are cabbage worms, aphids and flea beetles. Diseases of cauliflower include black rot, club root and viral yellows. The viral diseases are primarily spread by insects.
FAO reports that in 2005, China and India were the top producers of cauliflower and broccoli. About half of all cauliflower is raised in China and one fourth in India. In Europe, production has been in Spain since about 1990. In North America, production is primarily in California. The seasonal average f.o.b. shipping-point price for cauliflower in 2004 was $33.00 per 100 pounds ($0.73/kg) according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA.
|Top Ten Cauliflower Producers — 2005
|| Production (Int $1000)
|| Production (MT)
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|No symbol = official figure,F = FAO estimate, * = Unofficial figure, C = Calculated figure;|
Production in Int $1000 have been calculated based on 1999-2001 international prices
Source: Food And Agricultural Organization of United Nations: Economic And Social Department: The Statistical Devision
Cauliflower and broccoli
are the same species
and have very similar structures, though cauliflower replaces the green flower buds with white inflorescence meristem
There are four major groups of cauliflower.
- Italian. Diverse appearance, biennial and annual types. Includes white, Romanesco, various green, purple, brown and yellow cultivars. The ancestral type from which the others were derived
- Northwest European biennial. Used in Europe for winter and early spring harvest. Developed in France in the 19th century. Includes the old cultivars Roscoff and Angers.
- Northern European annuals. Used in Europe and North America for summer and fall harvest. Developed in Germany in the 18th century. Includes old cultivars Erfurt and Snowball.
- Asian. Tropical cauliflower used in China and India. Developed in India during the 19th century from the now-abandoned Cornish type. Includes old varieties Early Patna and Early Benaras.
Traditional varieties include 'Snowball', 'Hybrid White', 'Super Snowball', 'Snow Crown', 'Mayflower', Candid Charm', 'Mormon', 'Agrahani', 'poushi', 'maghi', 'Snow White', 'Snow Grace'.
Self-blanching varieties are 'Self Blanche', 'Early Tuscan', 'Late Tuscan'.
Heirloom varieties include 'All the Year Round', 'Early Pearl', 'Early Snowball', 'Igloo', 'Violetta Italia' and 'Walcheren Winter'. Commercial varieties includue 'Fremont', 'Igloo' and 'Snow Crown'. A comprehensive list of varieties is maintained at North Carolina State University.
- Orange cauliflower (B. oleracea L. var. botrytis) contains 25 times the level of Vitamin A of white varieties. This trait came from a natural mutant found in a cauliflower field in Canada. Cultivars include 'Cheddar' and 'Orange Bouquet'.
- Green cauliflower of the B. oleracea Botrytis group, is sometimes called broccoflower. It is available both with the normal curd shape and a variant spiky curd called "Romanesco broccoli" Both types have been commercially available in the US and Europe since the early 1990s. Romanesco's head is an example of a fractal image in nature, repeating itself in self-similarity at varying scales. Green curded varieties include 'Alverda', 'Green Goddess' and 'Vorda'. Romanesco varieties include 'Minaret', and 'Veronica'.
- Purple cauliflower also exists. The purple color is caused by the presence of the antioxidant group anthocyanin, which can also be found in red cabbage and red wine. Varieties include 'Graffiti' and 'Purple Cape'. In Great Britain and southern Italy, a broccoli with tiny flower buds is sold as a vegetable under the name "purple cauliflower." It is not the same as standard cauliflower with a purple curd.
Cauliflower is low in fat, high in dietary fiber
, water and vitamin C
, possessing a very high nutritional density
. As a member of the brassica
family, cauliflower shares with broccoli
which are beneficial to human health, including sulforaphane
, an anti-cancer compound released when cauliflower is chopped or chewed. In addition, the compound indole-3-carbinol
, which appears to work as an anti-estrogen
, appears to slow or prevent the growth of tumors of the breast and prostate. Cauliflower also contains other glucosinolates
besides sulfurophane, substances which may improve the liver
's ability to detoxify carcinogenic substances. A high intake of cauliflower has been found to reduce the risk of aggressive prostate cancer
Cauliflower can be roasted, boiled, fried
, steamed or eaten raw. When cooking, the outer leaves and thick stalks are removed, leaving only the florets. The leaves are also edible, but are most often discarded. The florets should be broken into similar-sized pieces so they are cooked evenly. After eight minutes of steaming, or five minutes of boiling, the florets should be soft, but not mushy (depending on size). Stirring while cooking can break the florets into smaller, uneven pieces. Cauliflower is often served with a cheese sauce, as in the dish cauliflower cheese
, or with a meat gravy
Low carb dieters can use cauliflower as a reasonable substitute for potatoes for while they can produce a similar texture, or mouth feel, they lack the starch of potatoes; cauliflower is used to produce a potato substitute known as fauxtato.
As with many vegetables, the cauliflower has a distinct fractal dimension. The fractal dimension of cauliflower is predicted at about 2.88.
- Sharma, S.R, Singh, P.K., Chable, V. Tripathi, S.K. "A review of hybrid cauliflower development". Journal of New Seeds 6 151.