The cauliflower is best prepared gently or eaten raw. This is the only way to benefit from its numerous health-promoting vital substances.
Cauliflower is a flowering vegetable
Have you ever wondered what the name of cauliflower is all about? After all, there isn’t a flower to be seen far and wide! And yet the little florets are flowers, more precisely tightly packed buds with blossoms not yet unfolded. Like the artichoke and the closely related broccoli, cauliflower is one of the so-called flowering vegetables.
If the cauliflower is not harvested in time, it will quickly lose its white appearance. Because then the rosettes grow apart, the shoots get longer, and finally, small yellow flowers bloom.
Like cabbage, broccoli, or Brussels sprouts, cauliflower (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis L.) is a cultivated form of cabbage and, like all cabbage varieties, belongs to the cruciferous family.
Classy pallor or purple cauliflower?
The cauliflower – also known as cauliflower – probably saw the light of day in Asia Minor as a result of a natural mutation of the cabbage flower. From there he went to Greece and Italy. Cauliflower was already cultivated throughout Europe in the 16th century. But while he only had a very small head at the beginning, it became more and more of a stately head as a result of targeted breeding.
It is interesting that a beauty ideal of the time, namely noble pallor, was also transferred to cauliflower. This is one of the reasons why vegetables are now primarily available in white coloring. There have been green, yellow-orange, and purple cauliflower varieties before. While the colorful cauliflower is still grown in Italy, for example, it is still a true rarity in German-speaking countries.
Incidentally, the cauliflower only gets its white color when its head does not come into contact with sunlight, as we know from white asparagus. For this reason, the head is covered with large cabbage leaves. This explains why some cauliflowers have greenish or even purple spots – a sign that the head has not been perfectly covered. There are now breeds in which the cauliflower independently shields its face from the sun with the help of its leaves.
What distinguishes cauliflower from Romanesco
Romanesco is often thought to be a cross between cauliflower and broccoli. However, the Romanesco is a natural variety of cauliflower. Its euphonious name is due to the fact that it was bred on the outskirts of Rome.
Visually, the Romanesco differs from the cauliflower in particular due to the delicately shaped florets, which are reminiscent of minarets. The Romanesco is colored green because, like the colorful cauliflower, it gets sunlight. In terms of taste, the Romanesco scores with its aroma.
The nutrients of cauliflower
Cauliflower is low in calories and a very digestible and healthy vegetable. It consists of around 90 percent water, and contains practically no fat, and hardly any sugar. In addition, most of the carbohydrates contained are dietary fiber. The calorie content is 23 kcal. The nutrient profile for 100 grams of raw cauliflower is as follows:
- 2 grams of protein
- 0.3 grams of fat
- 2 g carbohydrates (absorbable)
- 3 grams of dietary fiber
Compared to other cabbage varieties such as B. white cabbage, cauliflower has the great advantage that it is easily digestible so people with a sensitive gastrointestinal system can also benefit from it. This is because cauliflower has a finer cell structure. The vegetables are also suitable as light food and baby food (cooked and pureed).
Vitamins and minerals in cauliflower
As is usual with cabbage, cauliflower is particularly rich in vitamins and minerals.
Mustard oils reduce the risk of cancer
Cauliflower is not only low in calories and rich in nutrients, but it also contains a lot of secondary plant substances such as mustard oil glycosides. If the cauliflower is chewed well or broken up in any other way, these substances come into contact with the enzyme myrosinase. It is only now that health-promoting mustard oils are produced.
All cabbage varieties contain mustard oil glycosides, although their composition and content differ. For example, cauliflower contains sinigrin, glucoraphanin, and glucobrassicin. Glucoraphanin, with the help of myrosinase, produces the well-known mustard oil sulforaphane, which is now also available as a dietary supplement because of its outstanding health effects. Glucobrassicin, on the other hand, produces indole-3-carbinol and from this in turn DIM, a substance that we have already discussed here: DIM – A miracle of nature
Various studies have shown that mustard oils act against free radicals, bacteria, and fungi and can reduce the risk of cancer.
Sulforaphane for the prevention of breast cancer and metastasis
For example, sulforaphane plays a role in preventing breast cancer because of its ability to neutralize toxins such as estrogen derivatives in the body. A Canadian study also showed that weekly consumption of broccoli or cauliflower in patients with prostate cancer can reduce the spread of the tumor by 50 percent. It can be useful to combine cauliflower with turmeric.
Cauliflower for gastrointestinal health
The intestinal flora is also positively influenced by increased cauliflower. Studies by English researchers at Norwich Research Park have shown that people who eat a lot of cabbage vegetables – in this case cauliflower and broccoli – reduce the number of bacteria in the intestines that convert sulfates into sulfides (hydrogen sulfide). This effect is also attributed to mustard oils.
This change in the intestinal flora, therefore, has a positive effect on gastrointestinal health, since sulfates stimulate the flow of bile and have a digestive effect, while sulfides can lead to allergies and inflammation. Especially people with chronic intestinal inflammation and colon cancer often have too high a sulfide concentration in the body and can therefore benefit from cauliflower and co. in a special way.
The color of the cauliflower reveals the active ingredients
Cauliflower is also rich in polyphenols – a group of secondary plant substances. These include the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol, which have numerous healing properties. Both substances have an anti-carcinogenic effect, which is attributed to their extraordinary antioxidant potential. Quercetin can also counteract gout, while kaempferol has an anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, heart, and nerve protective effect.
If you’re lucky enough to know a retailer that stocks colorful cauliflower or cauliflower, you can benefit from its higher phytochemical content. For example, the yellow-orange coloring of Cheddar or Orange Bouquet varieties indicates a high proportion of beta-carotene. While there is only 2 mcg of beta-carotene (0.2 percent of the RDA) in 100 grams of white cauliflower, levels in orange cauliflower can be thousands of times higher.
The green color – e.g. B. in the cauliflower variety Romanesco – is produced by chlorophylls, while anthocyanins give the purple cauliflower (e.g. the Graffiti and Purple Cape varieties) as well as red cabbage and beetroot their characteristic coloring. In fact, according to an American study at Cornell University, purple cauliflower contains about the same amount of this antioxidant-rich coloring as blueberries, which are among the best sources.
According to studies, anthocyanins can improve vision and have an anti-inflammatory and vascular protective effect. You can find more information at Anthocyanins to protect against cancer.
Choose the cooking method for the cauliflower wisely
However, whether you can fully benefit from all the ingredients in cauliflower depends on the preparation method. According to a study at the University of Warwick, the loss of bioactive substances through boiling in plenty of water is 20 to 30 percent after 5 minutes, 40 and 50 percent after 10 minutes, and a whopping 75 percent after 30 minutes.
However, since not all active ingredients react in the same way to processing, a distinction must be made here. With some heat-sensitive substances such as chlorophyll and anthocyanins, the losses are even visible as a result of the color change. A wonderful violet or green quickly turns into unsightly shades of grey.
While beta-carotene is relatively heat-stable and its bioavailability can even be increased by gentle cooking, other carotenoids such as lutein and vitamins such as vitamin B1 do not respond well to heat. The vitamin C content is reduced during cooking on the one hand by high temperatures, on the other hand, because it is partially washed out by the water – according to researchers from Cairo University, the loss here is between 20 and 40 percent.
Both minerals and mustard oil glycosides are not affected by heat but are transferred to the cooking water during cooking. For this reason, you should only cook your cauliflower in as much water as is absolutely necessary and not throw away the cooking water. Experts recommend either steaming the cabbage or – best of all – enjoying it raw.
Organically grown cauliflower contains more antioxidants
Cauliflower can be bought all year round. In German-speaking countries, you can cover your needs from spring to late autumn with domestic cauliflower from the open field. In the winter months, the flowering vegetables are imported from European countries such as Italy.
When shopping, always make sure that the flower buds are tightly closed and do not show any brown discoloration. If there are still leaves, they should be crisp and not hanging limp. Your nose can tell you a lot about freshness: a strong smell of cabbage indicates that it has been stored for too long.
According to various analyzes, cabbage varieties such as cauliflower are among the types of vegetables that are extremely rarely contaminated with pesticides. But if you want to be on the safe side, go for organic cauliflower. Moreover, a study at the University of Oradea showed that organically grown collard greens have higher antioxidant potential.
Cauliflower is best stored in the crisper
Cauliflower is not a stored vegetable and should therefore be processed as quickly as possible. If you wrap it unwashed in plastic wrap, it can be stored in the crisper of the refrigerator for about 7 days.
If you want to avoid plastic, you can also wrap the cauliflower in a damp cloth, place it in a covered glass jar and then place it in the crisper. When the buds start to bloom, the taste changes to the negative. Cooked cauliflower should be consumed within 2 to 3 days. Unlike raw cauliflower, cooked cauliflower keeps better on the top of the fridge, not in the crisper.
Blanch and freeze cauliflower
If you want to keep the cauliflower longer, you can blanch the cauliflower florets for around 3 minutes, put them in ice water and then freeze them in portions. Blanching has the advantage that the cauliflower remains reasonably crisp.
However, you should be prepared for the fact that frozen cauliflower inevitably suffers losses in terms of consistency and taste compared to fresh vegetables.
Additionally, according to a study at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, blanching reduces the levels of various ingredients (e.g., mustard oil glycosides, anthocyanins, and vitamin C).
Preparation and use of cauliflower in the kitchen
Before you process the cauliflower, you should wash it well under running water. Nowadays, the heads are usually stripped of their leaves before they are sold, although these also taste good and are healthy. While the large dark green outer leaves are not suitable for consumption, the fine light green leaves are a real delicacy.
After the stalk has been cut and incised, the cabbage is cooked briefly and whole in an as little boiling salted water as possible in a pressure cooker. If you add some lemon juice to the cooking water, the white color will remain. The cauliflower can also be cut into florets of the same size and then cooked. Use the cooking water to prepare the sauce.
The cauliflower not only tastes wonderful when gratinated
Cauliflower has long played a secondary role in traditional, hearty cuisine, as it is usually served as a dreary side dish, literally drowned in melted butter or Dutch sauce, or baked with lots of cheese. Baked cauliflower may taste delicious, but it turns the actually easily digestible cabbage into a calorie bomb that is difficult to digest.
There are so many ways to make cauliflower delicious and healthy. The flowering vegetables do not necessarily have to be cooked, because they taste wonderful when finely chopped up on a raw vegetable platter or as a crunchy ingredient in a colorful salad. You can also briefly fry the cauliflower florets in a little olive oil. Many love it when the roasted vegetables are rolled in breadcrumbs – preferably whole grain – or turned into a delicious cauliflower soup.
Since cauliflower, unlike some other types of cabbage, only has a slight cabbage taste, it can be wonderfully combined with other ingredients and play the first fiddle in rice dishes, vegetable pans, stews, or curries. Spices and herbs such as turmeric, saffron, parsley, ginger, or green pepper ensure a special taste experience.