When I think of oft-maligned vegetables, cauliflower is one of the first to come to mind. But, as I’ve learned in my own quest to embrace cauliflower, it turns out that this wonderfully versatile vegetable needn’t be pale nor bland. In fact, while we’re most likely to find the more ho-hum white variety of cauliflower in our grocery stores, this vegetable grows in a surprising range of bright hues and wild shapes that are more commonly found at local farmers’ markets. Have you been exposed to cauliflower’s colorful side yet?

Cauliflower’s bright colors come from different pigments (phytochemicals) in each variety of the vegetable. White cauliflower gets its color (or relative lack thereof) from high levels of anthoxanthin and from the covering provided by the plant’s outer leaves, which protect the curds from sunlight and prevent the development of chlorophyll. Green cauliflower, on the other hand, has green curds due to the presence of chlorophyll, while orange cauliflower contains reddish beta carotenes, and purple cauliflower contains anthocyanins. These various phytochemicals have been shown to contribute to our long-term health by acting as antioxidants, and helping to reduce the risk for cancer. Talk about eating the rainbow!

Before we get into some delicious ways to prepare this beautiful vegetable, let’s learn a bit more about cauliflower.

  • Cauliflower is a member of the brassica family, which also includes broccoli, cabbage, kale, and Brussels sprouts.
  • Like its relatives, cauliflower is a nutrient dense powerhouse with high levels of dietary fiber and vitamin C, as well as vitamin K, vitamin B6, and folate.
  • One cup of cauliflower contains just 25 calories.
  • In addition to lovely, bright colors, cauliflower also takes on some wild shapes – the Romanesco variety has curds in repetitive fractal shapes.
  • Cauliflower has a long history! It was mentioned in ancient texts written by Arab scholars in the 12 and 13 century, when it was grown around the Mediterranean in places such as Cyprus, North Africa, and parts of the Middle East.
  • The cauliflower plant was introduced to other parts of Europe such as Italy and France in later centuries. France embraced the vegetable, where it was a favorite in the court of Louis XIV and a staple in rich dishes from the Brittany region.
  • Today, most of America’s cauliflower comes from California, but it’s also grown in New York, Florida, Michigan, Arizona, and Texas.

And without further ado here are Oldways’ ideas for 12 Great Ways to Use Cauliflower!

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