The most common varieties of cauliflowers are white; the green leaves protect the head from sunlight, which contributes to the white colour. There are also light green and purple cauliflowers. The vegetable is a good source of vitamin C and the trace mineral manganese. High fibre content and the sweet almost nutty flavour make cauliflowers a tasty choice for a range of dishes, from vegetable soup to crudités for dipping in sauces.
Cauliflower belongs to the same plant family as collards, kale, cabbage and broccoli. The four-petal flowers resemble a cross. The compact head, or curd, consists of underdeveloped flower buds attached to a central stalk. The flowers are broken apart into buds, which are cooked, steamed or eaten raw. Look for clean and compact curds where the bud clusters are not separated. Unless you are buying the coloured varieties, look for a brilliant white head. Avoid purchasing cauliflower that has small flowers. Cauliflower should smell crisp; if there is a pungent smell it will taste bitter. Soft curds should also be avoided.
Cauliflower can be affected by downy mildew (Peronospora parasitica) at any stage of development. The pathogen causes dark brown internal streaks on the cauliflower head, and fluffy white growth can be seen on the underside of the leaves.
Dark, almost black spots can sometimes be detected on the surface of the cauliflower. These spots are the beginning of spoilage.
Storing the cauliflower with the stem side down helps prevent moisture forming in the shoot tips. Moisture can cause brown spots in the refrigerator after five to seven days.The shoot tips are commonly referred to as florets, but they are underdeveloped shoot tips.