For the past few years I have occasionally seen strangely colored cauliflower. Lately it is orange and purple, but I am pretty sure I have seen light green before too. I automatically lean towards cynical when I see the odd-colored cauliflower (because don’t the grocery stores know cauliflower is supposed to be white?) and I wonder if someone is dying it these colors in order to make people want to eat more cauliflower? Or if it is some GMO experiment gone bad? This bright colored cauliflower cannot possibly be good for you!
Wrong on all counts. The colorful cauliflower is neither dyed nor GMO. It is actually done the old-fashioned Gregor Mendel way—by selectively breeding mutant plants. The colored cauliflower has the same texture and shape as the plain old white cauliflower, but it has a slightly different taste and more of some nutrients.
Orange cauliflower is also called “cheddar” cauliflower (solely because of its color, not because it tastes like cheese). It tastes sweeter and creamier than white cauliflower. This oddly colored cauliflower came from a single small mutant orange cauliflower that wasn’t very tasty. It was discovered in the middle of a crop of normal-sized white cauliflower heads in Canada, near Toronto. Dr. Michael Dickson, a Cornell University researcher at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, developed the orange heads we see today after years of cross-breading the small orange cauliflower with the normal white variety until he came up with a strain that was large, orange and tasty. The orange color comes from the natural pigment beta-carotene. The orange cauliflower has more beta-carotene than the white, which results in 25% more Vitamin A than the white kind.
Carotenoids, like beta-carotene, and flavonoids, like anthocyanin, are both phytochemicals, which have been shown to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.
The light green cauliflowers are hybrids between white cauliflower and broccoli. They are often called “broccoflowers” and have been around since 1990. An interesting fact about the plain white cauliflower: farmers used to have to tie the leaves around the heads to keep them white. If exposed to the sun, the heads will turn yellow or brown, and won’t taste very good. Now, however, the plant has been bred to have long leaves which naturally wrap around the head and protect it from the sun, keeping the vegetable white.
I tried this roasted orange cauliflower recipe for a side dish last night. It was easy, delicious, and even my kids loved it. The flavor of cauliflower really develops with roasting. It is worth checking out!
Roasted Orange Cauliflower
1 orange cauliflower, cut into florets
3 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup (approx.) olive oil
Sea salt, 1 tsp
Pepper (to taste)
2 T Italian parsley, roughly chopped
1 Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2 Spread out florets on a baking sheet lined with foil
3 Sprinkle minced garlic over florets
4 Sprinkle cumin over florets
5 Squeeze the juice from one lemon, evenly coating florets
6 Generously drizzle olive oil over florets
7 Sprinkle sea salt over florets
8 Sprinkle with pepper
9 Bake for 45 minutes or until tender and browned on top, and top it off with roughly chopped Italian parsley
Recipe: Eliza Domestica. http://www.elizadomestica.com/recipes/vegan-recipes/roasted-orange-cauliflower. Accessed February 23, 2015.
Hoyt, Richard. SFGate. Comparison of white, orange and purple cauliflower. http://homeguides.sfgate.com/comparison-white-orange-purple-cauliflower-85789.html. Accessed February 23, 2015.