Cauliflower’s one of those powerhouse veggies that’s loaded with fiber and nutrients. And, like broccoli and cabbage, to which it’s related, cauliflower’s also high in cancer fighting compounds. But let’s be honest: aesthetically, it’s a bit of a bore. Cauliflower’s an underwhelming vegetable that tends to get overcooked and smothered in a sea of cheese.
If you frequent the farmers markets, though, you’ve probably seen some striking new varieties of cauliflower. They’re even beginning to turn up in supermarkets, as more farmers cater to the growing demand for these bold-colored brassicas.
Best of all, these orange, purple and lime green cauliflowers are more flavorful — and more nutritious — than their wan white sibling.
The orange varieties of cauliflower, which began as a naturally occurring mutant in a Canadian cauliflower field, have 25 times as much Vitamin A as white cauliflower. Purple cauliflower gets its rich royal hue from anthocyanins, the same antioxidants found in red grapes, red cabbage, blueberries and other color-saturated fruits and vegetables. Romanesco cauliflower is a Dr. Seuss-like novelty with spiky, lime green whorls. It’s got a nice, nutty flavor and retains a firmer texture than other cauliflowers when cooked.
If you want to reap all the nutritional benefits cauliflower has to offer, your best bet is to enjoy it raw, cutting up the heads into small, bite-sized florets. This works especially well with young, freshly harvested heads. You’ll retain the vivid colors of these varieties this way, too; cooking can diminish their intensity or alter their color altogether.
If the cauliflower’s a bit older, though, it will benefit from being steamed for several minutes. This method of making it just a little bit tender is preferable to blanching cauliflower, because submerging it in water results in a loss of nutrients.
For a simple but stunning summer salad, Tricolor Cauliflower Salad, choose freshly harvested heads of orange, purple and Romanesco cauliflowers and prepare them according to this easy, elegant recipe. Why settle for plain vanilla white cauliflower when you can fill your bowl with a rainbow of fancy florets?