WHAT IS A CAULIFLOWER?
Cauliflower is part of of the Brassica oleracea species. It is an annual plant and reproduces through seeds. It is in the family Brassicaceae. The flower is the most common part of the plant to eat, but its greens are also very tasty. The cauliflower head is composed of a white inflorescence meristem.
Cauliflower heads resemble those in broccoli, which differs in having flower buds as the edible portion. Brassica oleracea also includes broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, and kale, collectively called "cole" crops, though they are of different cultivar groups.
Cauliflower is described as a superfood.
Cauliflower is a member of the cancer-fighting cruciferous family of vegetables (it contains sulforaphane, a sulfur compound that has also been shown to kill cancer stem cells, thereby slowing tumor growth. Some researchers believe eliminating cancer stem cells may be key to controlling cancer.)
Cauliflower may boost both your heart health (Sulforaphane in cauliflower can improve blood pressure and kidney function. Scientists believe sulforaphane's benefits are related to improved DNA methylation, which is crucial for normal cellular function and proper gene expression, especially in the easily damaged inner lining of the arteries known as the endothelium.)
Cauliflower is anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich (it contains nutrients to help keep inflammation in check, including indole-3-carbinol or I3C, an anti-inflammatory compound that may operate at the genetic level to help prevent the inflammatory responses at its foundational level.)
Cauliflower is rich in vitamins and minerals (it provides an impressive amounts of vitamin C, vitamin K, beta-carotene, protein, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, fiber, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, potassium, and manganese.
Cauliflower helps with your brain health (it is a good source of choline, a B vitamin known for its role in brain development. Choline intake during pregnancy "super-charged" the brain activity of animals in utero, indicating that it may boost cognitive function, and improve learning and memory. It may even diminish age-related memory decline and your brain's vulnerability to toxins during childhood, as well as conferring protection later in life.)
Cauliflower has digestive benefits (it is an important source of dietary fiber and according to the World's Healthiest Foods: "Researchers have determined that the sulforaphane made from a glucosinolate in cauliflower (glucoraphanin) can help protect the lining of your stomach. Sulforaphane provides you with this health benefit by preventing bacterial overgrowth of Helicobacter pylori in your stomach or too much clinging by this bacterium to your stomach wall.")
A ONE-CUP SERVING OF CAULIFLOWER CONTAINS:
Close to zero grams of fat, sodium, or sugar
73% daily value (DV) of Vitamin C
19% DV of Vitamin K
15% DV of folate14%
13% DV of pantothenic acid
12% DV of Vitamin B6
11% DV of choline
11% DV of fiber
9% DV of Omega-3 fatty acids
Cauliflower first appeared in the Asia region many years ago as a variant on a type of cabbage plant that is no longer thought to be consumed. It first became popular as an edible crop in the Mediterranean region, therefore we see cauliflower used still today in many Italian, Spanish, Turkish, and French cuisines.
It’s thought that these populations have been cooking with cauliflower since around 600 B.C. Cauliflower became more popular around Europe and then in the United States during the mid-16th century. At this time it became a commonly harvested vegetable that made its way into many different dishes.
Today the vegetable is used in nearly every type of cuisine in the world: Chinese and Japanese dishes, Italian, French, Indian, American, and so on. Most people choose to only cook and consume the white “head” of cauliflower, since the tougher stem and leaves can cause digestive upset for some people and tend to be tougher in texture.
MY FAVORITE RECIPES
Researchers have looked at the various ways to prepare and cook cauliflower in order to understand which cooking methods preserve cauliflower’s health benefits best.
According to studies, water boiling and water blanching processes had the biggest impact on reducing cauliflower’s nutrients. These methods caused significant losses of dry matter, protein, and mineral and phytochemical contents (roughly a 20–30% loss of certain nutrients after five minutes of boiling, 40–50% after ten minutes, and 75% after thirty minutes) (5).
Instead, surprisingly cauliflower kept its nutrients most intact when microwaved or gently stir fried. These cooking methods maintained the methanolic extract of fresh cauliflower and significantly preserved the highest antioxidant activity.
The very best method for cooking cauliflower seems to be gently sautéing it on the stove top, with a bit of water, broth, lemon juice, or a healthy source of fat which can make its nutrients more absorbable. Of course eating it raw, perhaps dipped in some healthy hummus or another type of dip, also preserves its nutrients.
I tested a few recipes for Leite's Culinaria that I love:
My grandmother was the very best at making soups. She could make delicious soups out of anything. I am fortunate to have her cooking books which slowly but surely I want to try to make every recipe she wrote throughout her live. Some are her own creations, others are family recipes and lastly others are traditional recipes she adjusted to her taste. As I am going through them all, I am also creating a document so that all of her great-grandchildren and cousins will be able to cherish for years to come. This one is a favorite of mine, it has a velvety taste and oddly enough it barely tastes like cauliflower.
1 head of cauliflower broken into small pieces
2 cups of vegetable stock
1 cup of cream (I use soy or coconut cream)
salt & pepper to taste
Boil the cauliflower in the stock until well cooked
Place the cauliflower into a high power blender
Place it back in the pot and add the cream
Let it simmer for about 3 minutes
Add salt & pepper to taste
Serve it garnished with a few parsley leaves