Cauliflower is like that one shy person that kind of melds into the crowd at a party.
It doesn’t have the striking color of a carrot, nor the great reputation of broccoli.
However, once you get to know cauliflower a little better, you’ll soon discover its true value.
Due to its somewhat bland appearance, it’s often overlooked in favor of other vegetables — and that’s a shame.
Let’s give it some deserved attention, shall we?
For starters, check out these 10 surprising facts about cauliflower.
1. Cauliflower Can Be Used As A Rice Replacement
Rice has long been a staple food of many Eastern cultures.
As the global food market grew, the grain became loved in the rest of the world as well.
And it’s easy to see why:
It’s a highly versatile grain that can be included in almost any meal.
Unfortunately, it turns out that rice may not be as safe as it used to be.
Careless use of industrial technology has caused inorganic arsenic to seep into the groundwater near rice fields — leading to widespread contamination.
Because of this, many health-conscious people are now looking for alternatives, such as cauliflower.
Riced cauliflower has similar consistency to actual rice, is cheap and easy to make, and has a higher nutrient density.
Personally, I made the switch a year ago and have never looked back.
Give it a try — you may be surprised at how well it works.
2. It’s Related To Cabbage & Kale
Cauliflower belongs to the plant species called Brassica oleracea.
This species includes other common vegetables like kale, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
Believe it or not, all of these come from the cultivation of one single plant — the wild cabbage.
Through the ages, farmers have selectively bred the plant for specific traits that they wanted to see more of.
In the end, the wild cabbage split into the different varieties we enjoy today.
This is how the artificial selection went down:
- A preference for larger leaves = kale
- More tightly bunched leaves = modern-day cabbage
- Thicker stems = kohlrabi
- Larger lateral buds = Brussels sprouts
- Larger immature buds = cauliflower (and later, broccoli)
Yes, you read that correctly:
Cauliflower (as the name suggests) is actually the flower buds of the plant.
More specifically, it’s a cluster of immature flower buds, known as a “curd”.
If you let it grow without harvesting it, you’ll eventually see its curd separate — much like a blooming flower.
3. Cauliflower Comes In 4 Different Colors
Pretty much everyone recognize the creamy-white cauliflower you see in most grocery stores.
But did you know that the vegetable comes in 3 other eye-catching colors as well?
They are as follows:
- Orange — contains the most beta carotene out of all the variants.
- Purple — filled with anthocyanins, which are the same antioxidants that give purple potatoes their coloring.
- Green — has the appearance of cauliflower but the chlorophyll content of broccoli.
All of the variants contain more or less the same level of nutrients, except for the differing level of plant pigments.
The green type actually comes in two forms — one has a normal curd and the other has a fractal one (as can be seen in the image above).
4. A Single Floret Contains 10% Of Your Daily Vitamin C Need
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that’s important for your immune system, eyes, cartilage, iron absorption and healthy skin, among other things.
When people think about vitamin C, they mostly envision oranges and freshly-squeezed juice.
The citrus fruit is definitely a good source of the vitamin — no doubt about that.
After all, just 100g of its juicy flesh will give you 45.0 mg (75% of RDV).
But guess what?
Cauliflower has oranges beat, with 46.4 mg (77%) per 100 g!
So, if you want to load up on the big C, don’t neglect the humble veggie.
Even just throwing a few florets in with your dinner will quickly bump up your levels.
5. Cauliflower Is Very Hard To Grow
Liking this list of cauliflower facts?
Thinking about growing some yourself?
If you’re an aspiring or beginner gardener, don’t get too excited just yet.
Turns out that the veggie is notoriously difficult to grow.
This is because:
• Cauliflower is very sensitive to heat and cold — it requires a consistent cool temperature of around 60°F (15 °C) or so to thrive.
• It needs to grow in an area where there’s at least 6 hours of daily sunlight.
• The soil needs to be properly fertilized so that it holds moisture — if not, the curd may start separating into smaller heads.
• Ph values of the soil must stay between 6.5 and 6.8 at all times.
• The plant must be in a continual state of growth — interruptions may end up ruining the curd.
• It’s susceptible to many leaf-eating insects, such as aphids, cabbage loopers and Harlequin bugs.
These are just some of the reasons why cauliflower is not a beginner-friendly vegetable.
That’s why most small-time farmers tend to stay away from the veggie— leaving it to commercial growers instead.
If you’re still set on giving it a go, however, check out this awesome guide by Quickcrop.
6. Steaming It Preserves The Most Nutrients
Have you ever boiled cauliflower and have it turn into a borderline-tasteless mush?
If so, you’re not alone.
It’s known to be very sensitive to boiling — more so than other vegetables.
And it’s not just the consistency and taste that takes a hit when you leave it submerged for too long.
Studies have shown that boiling cauliflower has the most negative effect on its nutritional content.
Levels of health-promoting compounds like vitamin C, carotenoids, flavonoids and other antioxidants are all significantly reduced by boiling.
The protein and mineral content also took a small hit.
Don’t worry, though — you don’t have to eat it raw.
The study showed that, out of all the cooking methods, steaming cauliflower retained the most nutrients.
If you prefer stir-frying it for that increased sweetness, that’s another viable option.
Should you still want to boil it, though, make sure to not overdo it — about 5 minutes should be enough.
7. The Stems & Leaves Are Edible & Nutritious
When we look at cauliflower, we naturally gravitate towards the alluring, creamy-white mass in the center of the plant.
After all, that’s what we’re after, right?
Still, you shouldn’t just throw out the leaves and stem of the plant.
Turns out, they’re completely edible, decently tasty, and quite nutritious.
The stem can be cut up and used alongside the florets, while the leaves can easily be included in a salad or soup.
The stem and leaves are good sources of calcium, iron, fiber, vitamin C and folate.
While the curd is obviously the main course, all parts of the cauliflower can be used.
8. Its History Is Uncertain
The origin of cauliflower as we know it today is hard to pinpoint.
The first possible mention of the vegetable comes from the works of Pliny the Elder.
Pliny was an author, philosopher and naturalist of the early Roman Empire.
He wrote the famous book called “The Natural History” (Naturalis Historia) — one of the biggest works to make it from antiquity to today.
In this book, he mentions something called cyma, which he said was the tastiest variety of cabbage.
Though his description of the plant sounds like cauliflower, he may have been talking about an earlier, different breed of vegetable from the same family.
The first clear mention of cauliflower emerges much later, in the writings of two Arab botanists of the 12th century — Ibn al-Baitar and Ibn al-Awwam.
They claimed that it originated in the Mediterranean, more specifically Cyprus.
9. Sunlight Can Give It A Yellow Tint
When cauliflower reaches its later stages of development, farmers usually start shielding it from sunlight.
If this isn’t done, the curd will eventually get a tint of yellow or green.
I know what you might be thinking:
“Well, who cares?”
After all, there’s no negative effect on the nutrients — in fact, the colored ones may even be a bit healthier.
However, if you plan on selling the veggie, you’ll want to keep the creamy-white color intact.
Commercial farmers have long known that it sells much better than the green or yellow tints.
It seems like most people simply prefer the “clean” look.
To maintain the mono-color of the cauliflower, farmers tie its biggest leaves together to prevent further sunlight exposure, like in this video:
10. A Large Cauliflower Has Less Calories Than A Muffin
Cauliflower is a perfect food to eat if you want to maintain or lose weight.
Most of us know how healthy vegetables are, but don’t fully appreciate just how few calories they actually contain.
This is why we call them nutrient-dense foods — they pack a lot of nutrition per calorie.
As you may know, a certain coffee shop chain sells a very popular blueberry muffin.
It’s marketed as a tasty, semi-healthy snack you can eat alongside your beverage.
One of these muffins weighs 126 grams and contains around 350 calories.
Not really a weight-loss food, but not too bad if you don’t overeat.
Now, let’s compare that to a typical large cauliflower.
With a much higher nutrient density, and a weight of about 840 grams, it only contains 210 calories.
Almost 7 times the weight of the muffin, and still 140 less calories.
In other words, if you like cauliflower, eat it to your heart’s content!