Like its fellow cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, cabbage, and brussels sprouts, cauliflower is a cool-weather crop perhaps best known for its oft-touted health properties, plus its ability to blend into its culinary environment, providing body and bulk in low-carb recipes. For local eaters, however, its cool-weather ripening and superior storage abilities make it a fall and winter staple.
01 of 07
Cauliflower may be grown, harvested, and sold year-round, but it is by nature a cool weather crop. Sunshine and heat bring out bitter flavors in the undeveloped flower buds that make up the tightly packed florets in a head of cauliflower, whereas chill and frost bring out its sweeter side.
Cauliflower is at its best in fall and winter and into early spring.
02 of 07
Look for white or cream-colored heads that feel heavy for their size. The deeply ribbed green leaves that envelop a head of cauliflower should look fresh, not wilted or yellowing or dry.
You may also find Italian purple cauliflower or golden cauliflower heads and green "broccoflower" at some markets. These are fun alternatives (particularly for vegetable platters) and can be used just like the more common white cauliflower.
03 of 07
Keep cauliflower loosely wrapped in plastic in the fridge. Fresh from the market heads will last up to 2 weeks.
You can cut cauliflower into florets and stored them, sealed, in a plastic bag in the fridge. They will last up to a week in a well-regulated refrigerator.
04 of 07
Cauliflower has a lightly sweet, nutty flavor when properly cooked. Raw cauliflower can have a pretty sharp bite, but when combined with creamy dips can be a great addition to a raw vegetable or crudite platter.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
Using the Whole Head
Whether cooked or eaten raw, cauliflower is most commonly broken or cut into florets. Any outer leaves are removed (you can save these to cut up and add to a stir-fry or soup, just know that they have a sharp cauliflower flavor). The core is often removed and discarded, but it is just as edible and tasty as the florets, so feel free to chop it up and cook those pieces along with the florets! This is especially true if you're making any kind of cauliflower soup.
The entire head of cauliflower... can also be simply roasted for a stunning presentation.
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Cauliflower doesn't have many calories (just 153 in a medium head) but lots of nutrients. First off, a 1-cup serving has 2 grams of fiber. It's also an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and vitamin B. It is also a source of calcium and magnesium, as well as fiber and omega 3 fatty acids.