AskDefine | Define cauliflower

Dictionary Definition



1 a plant having a large edible head of crowded white flower buds [syn: Brassica oleracea botrytis]
2 compact head of white undeveloped flowers

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. An annual variety of Brassica oleracea, or cabbage, of which the cluster of young flower stalks and buds is eaten as a vegetable.
  2. The edible head or "curd" of a cauliflower plant.


Extensive Definition

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 while the stalk and surrounding thick, green leaves are discarded. Cauliflower is very nutritious, and may be eaten cooked, raw or pickled.
Its name is a variation of cole flower or kale flower (cole and kale being variations of the same word), an acknowledgment of its unusual place among a family of food plants which normally produces only leafy greens for eating. The Brassica oleracea species is the same species as cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli and collard greens, though they are of different cultivar groups.

Horticultural techniques


The preferred garden soil for cauliflower is well drained, moist and has significant organic matter with a pH of 6 to 7. Cauliflower is typically started indoors six to eight weeks prior to setting out in the garden and is typically ready for harvest two months after transplanting. As with all brassicas, seeds germinate best with a soil temperature of 25±1 °C (77±2 °F). The vegetable requires a cool, moist climate - if temperatures go too high, the plants will not produce flower heads, if too low a temperature is reached, the plants might button, creating small heads. It is cold tolerant, but will not survive hard frosts. Of all the brassicas, cauliflowers have the largest number of growth requirements, and the ability to successfully grow cauliflower in a home garden is often thought to be the hallmark of well-managed soil and a good gardener.
The most common insect pests of cauliflower are cabbage worms. Aphids and flea beetles will also attack cauliflower. Control of pests can be achieved by using biological controls such as using geraniums and borage as companion plants to repel pests, the Bacillus thurengensis bacterium, predatory insects or chemical pesticides. Diseases of cauliflower include black rot, club root and viral yellows. Crop rotation helps to prevent fungal and bacterial diseases. The viral diseases are primarily spread by insects.

Commercial production

FAO reports that in 2005, China and India were the top producers of cauliflower and broccoli. About half of all cauliflower is raised in China and one fourth in India. In Europe, production has been in Spain since about 1990. In North America, production is primarily in California. The seasonal average f.o.b. shipping-point price for cauliflower in 2004 was $33.00 per 100 pounds ($0.73/kg) according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA.

Botanical varieties

Cauliflower and broccoli are the same species and have very similar structures, though cauliflower replaces the green flower buds with white inflorescence meristem.

Major groups

There are four major groups of cauliflower.
  • Italian. Diverse appearance, biennial and annual types. Includes white, Romanesco, various green, purple, brown and yellow cultivars. The ancestral type from which the others were derived
  • Northwest European biennial. Used in Europe for winter and early spring harvest. Developed in France in the 19th century. Includes the old cultivars Roscoff and Angers.
  • Northern European annuals. Used in Europe and North America for summer and fall harvest. Developed in Germany in the 18th century. Includes old cultivars Erfurt and Snowball.
  • Asian. Tropical cauliflower used in China and India. Developed in India during the 19th century from the now-abandoned Cornish type. Includes old varieties Early Patna and Early Benaras.


Traditional varieties include 'Snowball', 'Hybrid White', 'Super Snowball', 'Snow Crown', 'Mayflower', Candid Charm', 'Mormon', 'Agrahani', 'poushi', 'maghi', 'Snow White', 'Snow Grace'. Self-blanching varieties are 'Self Blanche', 'Early Tuscan', 'Late Tuscan'. Heirloom varieties include 'All the Year Round', 'Early Pearl', 'Early Snowball', 'Igloo', 'Violetta Italia' and 'Walcheren Winter'. Commercial varieties includue 'Fremont', 'Igloo' and 'Snow Crown'. A comprehensive list of varieties is maintained at North Carolina State University.


  • Orange cauliflower (B. oleracea L. var. botrytis) contains 25 times the level of Vitamin A of white varieties. This trait came from a natural mutant found in a cauliflower field in Canada. Cultivars include 'Cheddar' and 'Orange Bouquet'.
  • 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 US and Europe since the early 1990s. Romanesco's head is an example of a fractal image in nature, repeating itself in self-similarity at varying scales. Green curded varieties include 'Alverda', 'Green Goddess' and 'Vorda'. Romanesco varieties include 'Minaret', and 'Veronica'.
  • Purple cauliflower also exists. The purple color is caused by the presence of the antioxidant group anthocyanin, 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, high in dietary fiber, folate, water and vitamin C, possessing a very high nutritional density. As a member of the brassica family, cauliflower shares with broccoli and cabbage several phytochemicals which are beneficial to human health, including sulforaphane, an anti-cancer compound released when cauliflower is chopped or chewed. In addition, the compound indole-3-carbinol, which appears to work as an anti-estrogen, appears to slow or prevent the growth of tumors of the breast and prostate. Cauliflower also contains other glucosinolates besides sulfurophane, substances which may improve the liver's ability to detoxify carcinogenic substances. A high intake of cauliflower has been found to reduce the risk of aggressive prostate cancer.


Cauliflower can be roasted, boiled, fried, steamed or eaten raw. 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. Cauliflower is often served with a cheese sauce, as in the dish cauliflower cheese, or with a meat gravy.
Low carb dieters can use cauliflower as a reasonable substitute for potatoes for while they can produce a similar texture, or mouth feel, they lack the starch of potatoes; cauliflower is actually used to produce a potato substitute known as fauxtato.

Fractal Dimension

As with many vegetables, the cauliflower has a distinct fractal dimension. The fractal dimension of cauliflower is 2.6.



cauliflower in Arabic: قنبيط
cauliflower in Min Nan: Hoe-chhài
cauliflower in Breton: Kaol-bleuñv
cauliflower in Bulgarian: Карфиол
cauliflower in Catalan: Coliflor
cauliflower in Czech: Květák
cauliflower in Corsican: Cavulifiori
cauliflower in Danish: Blomkål
cauliflower in German: Blumenkohl
cauliflower in Estonian: Lillkapsas
cauliflower in Modern Greek (1453-): Κουνουπίδι
cauliflower in Spanish: Coliflor
cauliflower in Esperanto: Florbrasiko
cauliflower in French: Chou-fleur
cauliflower in Galician: Coliflor
cauliflower in Hindi: फूल गोभी
cauliflower in Indonesian: Kubis bunga
cauliflower in Icelandic: Blómkál
cauliflower in Hebrew: כרובית
cauliflower in Haitian: Chou flè
cauliflower in Hungarian: Karfiol
cauliflower in Dutch: Bloemkool
cauliflower in Japanese: カリフラワー
cauliflower in Norwegian: Blomkål
cauliflower in Norwegian Nynorsk: Blomkål
cauliflower in Polish: Kalafior
cauliflower in Portuguese: Couve-flor
cauliflower in Sicilian: Brassica oleracea botrytis
cauliflower in Slovak: Karfiol
cauliflower in Serbian: Карфиол
cauliflower in Finnish: Kukkakaali
cauliflower in Swedish: Blomkål
cauliflower in Telugu: కాలీఫ్లవరు
cauliflower in Vietnamese: Súp lơ
cauliflower in Turkish: Karnabahar
cauliflower in Chinese: 花椰菜
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