In Mark Twain's words, "cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education." The name of this elegant member of the cabbage family comes from the Latin ("stalk") and floris ("flower"). Cauliflower comes in three basic colors: white (the most popular and readily available), green and purple (a vibrant violet that turns pale green when cooked). All cauliflower is composed of bunches of tiny florets on clusters of stalks. Some white varieties have a purple or greenish tinge. The entire floret portion (called the "curd") is edible. The green leaves at the base are also edible, but take longer to cook and have a stronger flavor than the curd. Choose a firm cauliflower with compact florets; the leaves should be crisp and green with no sign of yellowing. The size of the head doesn't affect the quality. Refrigerate raw cauliflower, tightly wrapped, for three to five days; cooked for one to three days. To use, separate cauliflower head into florets and wash. Cauliflower can be eaten raw or cooked in a number of ways including boiling, baking and sautéing. Whole cauliflower heads may also be cooked in one piece. Adding a tablespoon of lemon juice or one cup milk to the cooking water will prevent discoloration. Cauliflower, which is a cruciferous vegetable, is high in vitamin C and is a fair source of iron.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.