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Cauliflower is a variety (Botrytis Group) of Brassica oleracea in the family Brassicaceae. Cauliflower resembles broccoli, to which it is closely related, except with very densely packed white flower buds. Only the head of the cauliflower is eaten, a part known as the white curd. This stalk is surrounded at the base by thick, green leaves.

Cauliflower is a source of nutritional vitamins and minerals. Cauliflower is most commonly eaten cooked, but it may also be eaten raw or pickled, and is often sold in that form commercially with pickled onions and pickles (pickled cucumbers).

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, cauliflower provides 94% of Vitamin C for a PDV based on a 2000 calorie diet. It is also an important source of protein, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, and potassium. This food is low in saturated fat, and very low in cholesterol (less than 1g per kg).

In March 2003, Britain's Department for International Development released a study showing that cauliflower in India had high concentrations of heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and zinc, far exceeding those permissible under Indian law. On September 23, 2002, a 17-year-old boy died after eating a small cauliflower he plucked from a field in Chandigarh, India, although it is believed that his death was due to pesticides that were sprayed on the cauliflower, and not the cauliflower itself.

Harvesting the vegetable

The delicate process

As soon as the head appears, gardeners tie the plant's leaves over the head in order to blanch it, a process allowing it to stay white. They must harvest the plant once it has reached what they presume to be its full size and ripeness, but they are careful not to wait too long, or else it will flower.

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.

Where it is grown

Most of the vegetable produced in the United States come from the state of California.

Broccoli and cauliflower have been recently crossed to create a vegetable called broccoflower, with very pale green heads densely packed like cauliflower, but with the flavour of broccoli.


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