[caption id="attachment_4332" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Cauliflower"][/caption]
Cauliflower is a vegetable that belongs to the Brassica oleracea species that also includes cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli and collard greens. The vegetable originated in the Northeast Mediterranean and is presently cultivated in most parts of the world. This vegetable has a white head and stalk and is surrounded by thick, green leaves. The stalk and leaves are discarded and only the head (white curd) is eaten. Cauliflower can be had in the raw, cooked or pickled form and the raw form holds the highest nutritional value.
Its name is derived from the Latin word caulis (cabbage) and flower. Cauliflower has a long history. François Pierre La Varenne employed chouxfleurs in Le cuisinier françois. They had been introduced to France from Genoa in the 16th century, and are featured in Olivier de Serres' Théâtre de l'agriculture (1600), as cauli-fiori "as the Italians call it, which are still rather rare in France; they hold an honorable place in the garden because of their delicacy," but they did not commonly appear on grand tables until the time of Louis XIV.
Cauliflower and broccoli are from the same species having very similar structures, though cauliflower replaces the green flower buds with white inflorescence meristem. Cauliflower is a cool season crop and is more exacting in its climatic requirements than most other crops in this family. It grows best in a comparatively cool temperature with a moist atmosphere. They are classified into four major groups like the Italian, Northwest European biennial, Northern European annuals and the Asian. There are different colors of cauliflowers available in the market like the orange cauliflower that contains 25 times the level of Vitamin A of white varieties. Green cauliflower is sometimes called brocco flower or broccoli. Purple color exists and the purple color is caused by the presence of the antioxidant group anthocyanin, which can also be found in red cabbage and red wine.
Cauliflower is low in fat, high in dietary fiber, folate, water and vitamin C, possessing a very high nutritional density. Cauliflower is also a good source of carotenoids. Cauliflower can be roasted, boiled, fried, steamed or eaten raw. There are a variety of dishes that can be made of the cauliflower like the cauliflower miluguperatu, carrot cauliflower pickle, cauliflower au gratin and the cauliflower 65 to name a few. The cauliflower manchurian is an all time favorite to many like the kids and the oldies. Steaming or microwaving better preserves anti-cancer compounds than boiling.
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). As with all vegetables, be sure not to overcook cauliflower. Sautéing cauliflower is rather better than the more traditional methods of boiling or steaming, which makes them waterlogged, mushy and loses much of its flavor. Cut cauliflower florets into quarters and let sit for 5 minutes before cooking. For great tasting cauliflower add 1 tsp of turmeric when adding the cauliflower to the skillet.
Raw cauliflower is firm yet a bit spongy in texture. It has a slightly sulfurous and faintly bitter flavor. The milk, sweet, almost nutty flavor of cauliflower is at its best from December through March when it is in season and most plentiful in your local markets. Cauliflower traces its ancestry to the wild cabbage, a plant thought to have originated in ancient Asia Minor, which resembled kale or collards more than the vegetable that we now know it to be.
The cauliflower went through many transformations and reappeared in the Mediterranean region, where it has been an important vegetable in Turkey and Italy since at least 600 B.C. It gained popularity in France in the mid-16th century and was subsequently cultivated in Northern Europe and the British Isles. The United States, France, Italy, India, and China are countries that produce significant amounts of cauliflower.
Cauliflower contains phytonutrients that release odorous sulfur compounds when heated. These odors become stronger with increased cooking time. If you want to minimize odor, retain the vegetable's crisp texture, and reduce nutrient loss, cook the cauliflower for only a short time. Some phytonutrients may react with iron in cookware and cause the cauliflower to take on a brownish hue. To prevent this, add a bit of lemon juice to the water in which you blanch the cauliflower.
Cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate and fiber. It is a very good source of vitamin B5, vitamin B6, omega-3 fatty acids, and manganese. Additionally, it is a good source of potassium, protein, phosphorus, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, and magnesium. Cauliflower, a highly nutritious vegetable, contains many nutrients that can help prevent a range of diseases from cancer to cataracts. Three florets of cauliflower a day will provide you with 67% of your daily vitamin C requirement. Cauliflower has been associated with the maintenance of a healthy cholesterol level. Cauliflower acts as a blood and liver detoxifier.
Nutritional Value of Cauliflower
Given below is the amount of nutrients in 100 gm of raw cauliflower
Carbohydrates - 5 g
Sugars - 2.4 g
Dietary fiber - 2.5 g
Protein - 2 g
Vitamin B6 - 0.22 mg
Folate (Vitamin B9) - 57 μg
Vitamin C - 46 mg
Calcium - 22 mg
Iron - 0.44 mg
Potassium - 300 mg
Energy - 20 kcal (100 kJ)