Cauliflower is, like its cousin broccoli, among the many descendants of the sea cabbage. This wild cabbage grows everywhere since a long time ago. Cauliflower is made up of inflorescences, florets (or flowers, or bunches), collected around a compact stem, very tight against each other and surrounded by leaves. They are arranged in a ball in the cauliflower.
History of cauliflower
“Turreted cauliflower” and “apple broccoli”, the names given to cabbage Romanesco, testify to the difficulty in differentiating these two vegetables. Some say the Romanesco would have appeared after the broccoli, but before the cauliflower, constituting in some way the missing link between these two neighboring species.
According to genetic research, cauliflower would have evolved from broccoli and would have followed roughly the same trajectory. It was almost extinct from Europe after the decline of the Roman Empire, and reappeared there at the end of the Middle Ages, from the Middle East countries, presumably passing through Cyprus. In fact, around 1586, in England, it was called Cyprus coleworts (Cyprus cabbage). It was cultivated in France around the year 1600.
As for the Romanesco, whose leaves of a beautiful tender green are nicely arranged spirally, it was introduced in international markets only in early 1990s. It would be an ancient variety and was cultivated exclusively in the region of Rome (hence its name) until Dutch researchers put their hands on it and improved it.
Finally, it is sometimes seen in supermarkets a cauliflower with orange apple, the fruit of a natural mutation. Interestingly, it is 100 times richer in beta-carotene than the white apple cauliflower.
Cauliflower health profile
Cauliflower is a vegetable of the family of the crucifers. It is rich in vitamin C. It contains bioactive compounds having effects on different types of cancer. To make the most of the profits, eat it raw or lightly cooked.
The benefits of cauliflower
Several epidemiological studies have shown that high consumption of vegetables and fruit decreases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, some cancers and other chronic diseases. The presence of antioxidants among vegetables and fruits could play a role in this protection.
Cancer. Several studies have shown regular consumption of vegetables in the family of the brassicas (e.g. cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels cabbage) could prevent certain cancers, such as those of the lung, ovaries and kidneys (for women). Among animals, the addition of cauliflower to the diet would promote the action of a gene related to the prevention of lung cancer.
1. To date, however, it would be premature to conclude that eating vegetables from the family of the crucifers decreases the risk of all types of cancer. Although recent review and articles report highlight that vegetables of the crucifers family would have a specific protective effect on the risk of cancer, the current epidemiological studies indicate the use of vegetables in the family of the crucifers could primarily reduce the risk of stomach and lung cancers. Future work will need to be done to clarify these studies.
2. In vitro and animal studies have shown some active compounds contained in cauliflower (Tiac and carbinol) could prevent tumor formation, decrease the growth of cancer cells and promote their self-destruction. These studies focus mainly on cancers related to the hormonal system (breast cancer, prostate cancer), but other results among animal also show a beneficial effect against cervical cancer. However, further research is needed before confirming these results among humans.
3. Considering the data currently available in the scientific literature, it appears that a frequent consumption of vegetables from the family of the cauliflower decreases the risk of metastases among some people who developed a tumor.
Cardiovascular health. Daily consumption of brassicas would be associated with a lower blood concentration of homocysteine, which would reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Memory. A study conducted among older women concluded that the consumption of brassicas would slow the cognitive decline.
Diabetes. A study conducted on animals showed ingestion of cauliflower juice mitigated the increase in blood glucose levels, which could be promising for the control of diabetes.
What’s in the cauliflower?
The orange cauliflower
It is not the result of human manipulations, but the product of a genetic characteristic which can occur naturally in this vegetable. This orange color results from the accumulation of a high amount of beta-carotene.
Like the majority of the brassica vegetables, the cauliflower contains glucosinolates.
Cauliflower glucosinolates have the ability to transform into active molecules (allyl isothiocyanate or Tiac, Carbinol, and 3,3′-diindolylmethane) when the food containing it is chopped, chewed or in contact with the intestinal bacterial flora.
Many of these molecules would help to limit the development of some cancers.
Cooking cauliflower causes a loss of glucosinolates. Thus, a moderate cooking would optimize the formation of bioactive compounds. To date, however, the optimum therapeutic concentration of these compounds has not yet been evaluated in clinical studies.
Crucifers, cauliflower, hypothyroidism and thyroid cancer
1. Are the crucifers, including cauliflower, to be avoided if you suffer from hypothyroidism?
In the light of current knowledge, it would not be appropriate to moderate its use of brassicas in the case of hypothyroidism, unless blood dosages indicate iodine deficiency.
Explanation. Goitrin, a substance present in the brassicas, would block the activity of the enzyme responsible for the intake of iodine. Since iodine deficiency is rare in our societies, the impact of the crucifers on the thyroid gland does not seem to raise anxiety.
2. Is there a link between the crucifers and thyroid cancer?
The crucifers naturally contain thioglucosides, substances that would have a connection with thyroid gland cancer among animals.
Research. Now, a meta-analysis of studies from many countries and comprising more than 5000 people, as well as a journal article containing epidemiological studies, showed that high consumption of brassicas was not associated with a greater risk of thyroid cancer among humans.
Irritable bowel syndrome. Some people with irritable bowel syndrome may feel, in varying degrees, intolerance to the crucifers, such as cauliflower. Limiting or avoiding fermentable foods such as those in the family of the crucifers can alleviate symptoms among people with this syndrome. When the symptoms are mild, or during periods of “remission”, it is sometimes possible to gradually reintegrate these foods, always respecting individual tolerance.
Interaction between the cauliflower and certain medications. The indoles, naturally occurring compounds in the brassicas may decrease the action of some analgesics such as products containing acetaminophen (Tylenol, Atasol, Tempur) and other medications combining a mixture of active ingredients (Benylin, Contac, Robaxacet). People who consume a large amount of brassicas should take that into consideration.
Choice and conservation
Cauliflower tops must be firm and the flowers are well tightened. What remains of the foliage must be fresh, green and inflated with water. Whether violet, cream white, orange or green, the cauliflower must have preserved its original color.
The presence of brown spots indicates a beginning of decay. The grainy appearance of the florets is not a problem as long as the flowers remain closed. If they are discarded, it is a sign the vegetable was harvested too late.
The stems of the cauliflower are consumed. Peel if necessary and cut in the direction of the length so that they require the same time to cook as the tops.
All recipes suitable for cauliflower are also suitable for broccoli.
Refrigerator. Four or five days in the crisper.
Freezer. Make it bleach three minutes in boiling water, then cool with ice water. Drain and put in freezer bags.
More difficult to grow than broccoli, cauliflower requires soil temperature to be 7 °C to 28 °C and pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Because it does not like heat or drought, you must plant early varieties (50-60 days) early in the spring to harvest them before the great heats. Late varieties (60-80 days) are planted around July 1st, so they are ready in the fall when the temperature refreshes.
It is said that cauliflower likes to have feet in the water and top to the sun. It has to grow quickly, which means it has to be well irrigated and well fertilized. There should be no undue delay between the sowing time and the replanting period, even if it is too hot to protect the young plants from the sun with a shade. In addition to fertilizing at the time of planting, it is recommended to incorporate about one liter of poultry manure at the foot of each plant, three weeks after replanting it.
When the floral top begins to form, it must be protected from the sun by tying the upper leaves with string.
Ecology and environment
Researchers from California found by bringing in the soil of broccoli residues, they could control the verticillium. This fungal disease causes wilting of cauliflower plants and causes significant losses to producers. It is difficult to treat and requires the use of powerful chemical fungicides, some of which eventually end up in the flowing water and groundwater. Broccoli would contain toxic substances for the spores of this species of verticillium, to which it is itself completely resistant. This technique reduces substantially, or even eliminates, conventional treatments based on chemical fungicides.