Mark Twain once said of the cauliflower, “a cabbage with a college education”. He was right about the cabbage connection because both come from the same vegetable family (Cruciferae) as does broccoli, rocket, brussel sprouts, bok choy, mustard greens, radishes, kale and even the swede.
Today it seems to me that the cauli has been overlooked for its green cousin broccoli. This could be due to the way cauliflowers were served up to us as kids. How many of you think of cauliflower cheese when a cauliflower comes in view? Because it’s not green we somehow think the white curd of cauliflower doesn’t share the same good food properties as broccoli. How wrong we are!
|Roasted cauliflower, red onion and toasted almonds on a bed of rocket|
While there are still some cauliflowers about I would like to share with you a winning recipe from “Pipi the cookbook”. I have served this frequently as a warm salad option to much acclaim as it brings out the true nutty flavour of cauliflower. It can be served cool but I wouldn’t serve it chilled because it will lose flavour. It’s a good salad to have when the weather is still not that warm. The secret is roasting the cauliflower and onions and letting the orange and olive oil dressing soak in while still hot.
Cauliflower and Almond Salad with Orange Dressing
|I like to serve this salad on a long glass platter|
The Cruciferous Group
Named Cruciferous because of its flowers. They have four equal-sized petals that form a crucifix or cross-like shape. Any of you growing rocket will notice as weather warms they quickly bolt to flower and their white flowers have this distinctive cross shape. (By the way I use the rocket flowers in salads). But the name “cruciferous” is undergoing change. Scientists are now starting to favour the term “brassica vegetables” instead, and that makes sense if you are a gardener.
|Left Italian Kale flowers, centre Rocket flowers, right wild roadside brassica flowers|
This family of vegetables come out on top of the nutrient charts. Scientists have been studying them for their cancer prevention qualities. It’s suggested you eat vegetables from this group at least 3 times a week, preferably five times, and have a serving size of a cup and a half. Like carrots they are better cooked with oil or butter to get the most of the beta-carotene and minerals.
Alison Lambert, the Otago Farmers Market chef, has a really good quick recipe for sauteed cauliflower. I witnessed her turning around previous haters of cauliflower with this method of cooking.
Simply Cooked Cauliflower – Alison Lambert
If you want to know more about the cauliflower and cruciferous vegetables with research references then I recommend plunging into this site…
For selecting and storage of cauliflowers
Cauliflower will keep in the refrigerator for a week but it should be stored with the stalk down so that air can circulate and no moisture gets into the curd (head).
Cauliflower will turn yellow in alkaline water, to keep white add a little milk or some lemon juice to the water.
The curd or head of the cauliflower will become discoloured and bitter tasting if exposed to too much sunlight. So once the curd reaches the size of a tennis ball, pull up 3 or 4 of the outer leaves and tie them loosely around the curd – this is called blanching. It is usually ready to pick within a week or two after blanching.
Plant them early spring and in late summer. They require rich soil that retains moisture – and a fortunate run of weather because they will bolt if too cold or too hot and dry.
I have to admit I haven’t had a lot of success with cauliflowers and usually opt to buy them from the market. They are a bargain when I think how difficult it is to grow them. I thought this year I would have another try with the 6 purple caulis seedlings I planted a few weeks ago.
|The pouches of the Shepherd’s Purse|
Shepherds Purse was the first plant I remember learning about in primary school – I was fascinated by its name and the heart shaped pouches.
It was named because the fruit resembles the shape of the purses carried by the shepherds of Bethlehem. Through the centuries it has also been called Witches’ Pouches, Poverty Weed, Mother’s Heart, Poor Mans Pharmacy and many more.
I had no idea that this little “weed” was actually related to the cauliflower until I discovered it on the Cruciferous family list.
You can eat all of this plant – the little seed pouches are peppery and can be added to soups for an added zing and the dried roots have been used as a substitute for ginger – no less! Its used as a food in Japan, China and Korea.
It’s had a history of use as a medicinal herb and is supposed to stop bleeding. In China it’s used to reduce fertility and is traditionally used in childbirth because of its uterine-contracting properties.
For more information on this super little weed take a look at this link
Shepherd’s Purse Herbal History
|Shepherd’s Purse growing along Portobello Road|
Shepherd’s Purse is in its full fruiting glory on the Otago Peninsula. It’s going to seed just like its cousins rocket and kale – indicating to me that it is warming up here in the south…..a little.