08 Nov Farmer’s Market Find: Orange Cauliflower
By Catherine Cioffi, RD Contributing Blogger
Across America farmers markets have become common place. They’re a great venue for purchasing seasonal produce, supporting local agriculture, and discovering new foods and ingredients. I was pleasantly surprised by my recent discovery: orange cauliflower!
What is cauliflower?
Cauliflower is a member of my favorite family of vegetables, known as Brassica oleracea. In addition to cauliflower, this family includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, collard greens, and cabbage. These vegetables are also called cruciferous vegetables, all members of the cabbage family. Though I’ve always thought of cauliflower as “the white version of broccoli”, I recently learned that there are four color varieties: white, orange, purple, and green.
All cauliflower is rich in Vitamin C—just one cup of fresh chopped cauliflower contains more than 85% of our recommended daily amount! It’s also a good source of vitamin K and folate.
What’s the difference?
Orange cauliflower, also called “cheddar” cauliflower, is a naturally occurring mutant of classic white cauliflower. It was discovered on a farm in Canada in 1970, then brought to the agriculture school at Cornell University (my alma mater!). After years of crossbreeding, the scientists at Cornell have now developed it into a successful crop.
In contrast to its white counterpart, orange cauliflower contains 25% more beta-carotene, a natural red-orange hue that gives it the unique color. Beat-carotene is also found in many similarly colored fruits and vegetables like carrots and butternut squash. Our bodies can use beta-carotene to make Vitamin A, which helps maintain healthy skin, eyes, and immune system. .
Purple cauliflower is another striking vegetable popping up at fall farmers’ markets. Instead of beta-carotene, it gets its deep purple coloring from natural anthocyanins, a family of red, blue, and purple pigments that are also powerful antioxidants.
Lastly, there are two varieties of Green cauliflower. The first has the same taste and texture of white cauliflower, but varies only in its lime-green color. The second variety is called romanesco broccoli, which has a more spiky, spiraled appearance than a traditional head of broccoli or cauliflower.
How To Cook Orange Cauliflower
Regardless of the color, all four varieties can be used interchangeably in recipes. This week I prepared my orange cauliflower by roasting it with butternut squash and chickpeas—an easy weeknight side dish. The rest was used to make a creamy “Alfredo” sauce alternative (stay tuned for recipe!).
It can also be cooked by steaming, sautéing in olive oil, or by pureeing into a soup or mashed potato alternative. Cauliflower lends nicely to simple seasoning of just salt and pepper, as well as more flavorful spices, such as Indian curries.