Fall Harvest: Cauliflower

September 26, 2013 at 11:19 AM | Posted in vegetables | 4 Comments
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Cauliflower

Cauliflower

 

Cauliflower may be grown, harvested, and sold year-round, but it is by nature a cool weather crop and at its best in fall and winter and into early spring.

 

Cauliflower is one of several vegetables in the species Brassica oleracea, in the family Brassicaceae. It is an annual plant that reproduces by seed. Typically, only the head (the white curd) is eaten. The cauliflower head is composed of a white inflorescence meristem. Cauliflower heads resemble those in broccoli, which differs in having flower buds.
Its name is from Latin caulis (cabbage) and flower,. Brassica oleracea also includes cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, and collard greens, though they are of different cultivar groups.
For such a highly modified plant, cauliflower has a long history. François Pierre La Varenne employed chouxfleurs in Le cuisinier françois. They were introduced to France from Genoa in the 16th century, and are featured in Olivier de Serres‘ Théâtre de l’agriculture (1600), as cauli-fiori “as the Italians call it, which are still rather rare in France; they hold an honorable place in the garden because of their delicacy”, but they did not commonly appear on grand tables until the time of Louis XIV.

 

 

There are four major groups of cauliflower.
* Italian
Diverse in appearance, and biennial and annual in type, this group includes white, Romanesco, various green, purple, brown and yellow cultivars. This type is the ancestral form from which the others were derived.
* Northwest European biennial
Used in Europe for winter and early spring harvest, this was developed in France in the 19th century, and includes the old cultivars Roscoff and Angers.
* Northern European annuals
Used in Europe and North America for summer and fall harvest, it was developed in Germany in the 18th century, and includes the old cultivars Erfurt and Snowball.
* Asian
A tropical cauliflower used in China and India, it was developed in India during the 19th century from the now-abandoned Cornish type,[6] and includes old varieties Early Patna and Early Benaras.

 

 

There are hundreds of historic and current commercial varieties used around the world. A comprehensive list of about 80 North American varieties is maintained at North Carolina State University.
Colors:
* White
White cauliflower is the most common colour of cauliflower.
* Orange
Orange cauliflower (B. oleracea L. var. botrytis) contains 25% more vitamin A than white varieties. This trait came from a natural mutant found in a cauliflower field in Canada. Cultivars include ‘Cheddar’ and ‘Orange Bouquet’.
* Green
Green cauliflower, of the B. oleracea botrytis group, is sometimes called broccoflower. It is available both with the normal curd shape and a variant spiky curd called Romanesco broccoli. Both types have been commercially available in the U.S. and Europe since the early 1990s. Green-curded varieties include ‘Alverda’, ‘Green Goddess’ and ‘Vorda’. Romanesco varieties include ‘Minaret’ and ‘Veronica’.
* Purple
The purple colour in this cauliflower is caused by the presence of the antioxidant group anthocyanins, which can also be found in red cabbage and red wine. Varieties include ‘Graffiti’ and ‘Purple Cape’. In Great Britain and southern Italy, a broccoli with tiny flower buds is sold as a vegetable under the name “purple cauliflower”. It is not the same as standard cauliflower with a purple curd.

 

 

Cauliflower is low in fat, low in carbohydrates but high in dietary fiber, folate, water, and vitamin C, possessing a high nutritional density.
Cauliflower contains several phytochemicals, common in the cabbage family, that may be beneficial to human health.
8 Sulforaphane, a compound released when cauliflower is chopped or chewed, may protect against cancer.
* Other glucosinolates
* Carotenoids
* Indole-3-carbinol, a chemical that enhances DNA repair, and acts as an estrogen antagonist, slowing the growth of cancer cells.
Boiling reduces the levels of these compounds, with losses of 20–30% after five minutes, 40–50% after ten minutes, and 75% after thirty minutes. However, other preparation methods, such as steaming, microwaving, and stir frying, have no significant effect on the compounds.
A high intake of cauliflower has been associated with reduced risk of aggressive prostate cancer.

 

 

Aloo gobi, an Indian dish prepared with cauliflower and potato

Aloo gobi, an Indian dish prepared with cauliflower and potato

Cauliflower can be roasted, boiled, fried, steamed, or eaten raw. Steaming or microwaving better preserves anticancer compounds than boiling. When cooking, the outer leaves and thick stalks are removed, leaving only the florets. The leaves are also edible, but are most often discarded. The florets should be broken into similar-sized pieces so they are cooked evenly. After eight minutes of steaming, or five minutes of boiling, the florets should be soft, but not mushy (depending on size). Stirring while cooking can break the florets into smaller, uneven pieces.
Low carbohydrate dieters can use cauliflower as a reasonable substitute for potatoes or rice; while they can produce a similar texture, or mouth feel, they lack the starch of the originals.

 

Fall Harvest: Broccoli

September 24, 2013 at 7:40 AM | Posted in vegetables | 1 Comment
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Broccoli

 

Broccoli can be grown year-round in temperate climates so we’ve forgotten it even has a season. It is more sweet, less bitter and sharp when harvested in the cooler temperatures of fall in most climates.

 

Broccoli is an edible green plant in the cabbage family, whose large flower head is used as a vegetable. The word broccoli, from the Italian plural of broccolo, refers to “the flowering top of a cabbage”. Broccoli is usually boiled or steamed but may be eaten raw and has become popular as a raw vegetable in hors d’œuvre trays. The leaves may also be eaten.
Broccoli is classified in the Italica cultivar group of the species Brassica oleracea. Broccoli has large flower heads, usually green in color, arranged in a tree-like structure on branches sprouting from a thick, edible stalk. The mass of flower heads is surrounded by leaves. Broccoli most closely resembles cauliflower, which is a different cultivar group of the same species.
Broccoli is a result of careful breeding of cultivated leafy cole crops in the Northern Mediterranean in about the 6th century BC. Since the Roman Empire, broccoli has been considered a uniquely valuable food among Italians. Broccoli was brought to England from Antwerp in the mid-18th century by Peter Scheemakers. Broccoli was first introduced to the United States by Italian immigrants but did not become widely known there until the 1920s.

 
Broccoli is high in vitamin C and dietary fiber; it also contains multiple nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties, such as diindolylmethane and small amounts of selenium. A single serving provides more than 30 mg of vitamin C and a half-cup provides 52 mg of vitamin C. The 3,3′-Diindolylmethane found in broccoli is a potent modulator of the innate immune response system with anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-cancer activity. Broccoli also contains the compound glucoraphanin, which can be processed into an anti-cancer compound sulforaphane, though the benefits of broccoli are greatly reduced if the vegetable is boiled. Broccoli is also an excellent source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells.
Boiling broccoli reduces the levels of suspected anti-carcinogenic compounds, such as sulforaphane, with losses of 20–30% after five minutes, 40–50% after ten minutes, and 77% after thirty minutes. However, other preparation methods such as steaming, microwaving, and stir frying had no significant effect on the compounds.
Broccoli has the highest levels of carotenoids in the brassica family. It is particularly rich in lutein and also provides a modest amount of beta-carotene.

 
There are three commonly grown types of broccoli. The most familiar is Calabrese broccoli, often referred to simply as “broccoli”, named after Calabria in Italy. It has large (10 to 20 cm) green heads and thick stalks. It is a cool season annual crop. Sprouting broccoli has a larger number of heads with many thin stalks. Purple cauliflower is a type of broccoli sold in southern Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom. It has a head shaped like cauliflower, but consisting of tiny flower buds. It sometimes, but not always, has a purple cast to the tips of the flower buds.
Other cultivar groups of Brassica oleracea include cabbage (Capitata Group), cauliflower and Romanesco broccoli (Botrytis Group), kale and collard greens (Acephala Group), kohlrabi (Gongylodes Group), and Brussels sprouts (Gemmifera Group). Chinese broccoli (Alboglabra Group) is also a cultivar group of Brassica oleracea. Rapini, sometimes called “broccoli rabe” among other names, forms similar but smaller heads, and is actually a type of turnip (Brassica rapa). Broccolini or “Tender Stem Broccoli” is a cross between broccoli and Chinese broccoli.

 

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