Cauliflower is one of the cultivated varieties of the cabbage plant family and is closely related to broccoli.
The cauliflower originally came from Cyprus.
In the 1st century AD, Pliny included what he called cyma among his descriptions of cultivated plants in Natural History: “Ex omnibus brassicae generibus suavissima est cyma,” (“Of all the varieties of cabbage the most pleasant-tasted is cyma”).
It is found in the writings of the Arab botanists Ibn al-‘Awwam and Ibn al-Baitar, in the 12th and 13th centuries.
Despite its antiquity, sprouting broccoli apparently was unknown in England until about 1720, when it was introduced as “sprout cauliflower” or “Italian asparagus”.
It’s hard to imagine that this vegetable, now taken somewhat for granted, was once the rage at the court of Louis XIV and served in rich and elegant dishes there.
Today, food writers everywhere are extremely fond of quoting Mark Twain’s contention that “a cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a college education,” but somehow they always neglect to complete that opinion with its beginning: “Training is everything,” he wrote (in Puddn’ Head Wilson).
The word “cauliflower” derives from the Italian caoli fiori, meaning “cabbage flower”. The ultimate origin of the name is from the Latin words caulis (cabbage) and flōs (flower).
It is an annual plant that reproduces by seed.
The plant reach about 0.5 meter (1.5 feet) tall and has large rounded leaves that resemble collards.
As desired for food, the terminal cluster forms a firm, succulent “curd,” or head, that is an immature inflorescence (cluster of flowers). The broad leaves extend far above the curd and are often tied together before harvest to shade the curd and prevent discoloration.
The plants produce cross-shaped flowers and bear seeds in dry capsules known as siliques.
Commercially, white cauliflower is the most common, though orange, purple, green, and brown cultivars also exist.
Cauliflower is very nutritious, and may be eaten boiled, fried, roasted, steamed, pickled, or raw.
There are 25 calories in 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of cauliflower.
Cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6. It is a very good source of choline, dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, manganese, phosphorus, and biotin.
The health benefits of cauliflower include a reduced risk of cancer, heart and brain disorders, relief from indigestion, detoxification of the body, increased iron absorption, and weight loss. This superfood also helps boost eye health, maintain hormonal balance, and prevents diabetes, colitis, respiratory papillomatosis, hypertension, and the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation. It is packed with nutrients and antioxidant power which helps in strengthening the immune system, maintaining bone and cellular health, electrolyte balance, and optimum cholesterol levels.
Green cauliflower is available in the normal curd (head) shape and with a fractal spiral curd called Romanesco broccoli.
Cauliflower has been noticed by mathematicians for its distinct fractal dimension, predicted to be about 2.8. One of the fractal properties of cauliflower is that every branch, or “module”, is similar to the entire cauliflower. Another quality, also present in other plant species, is that the angle between “modules,” as they become more distant from the center, is 360 degrees divided by the golden ratio.
It is a popular vegetable in Poland where it is eaten in a soup with cream or fried with bread crumbs.
Cauliflower-based doughs for making pizza have been 3D printed.