KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Here's a cool new decorating tip: Match your cauliflower to your decor and serving dishes.
Thanks to the magic of science and some laboratory tweaking of Mother Nature, home cooks can find cauliflower in electric greens, Day-Glo oranges and majestic purples.
A member of the Brassica oleracea species, cauliflower is a cousin to cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale and kohlrabi. Once called crucifers, a reference to the four-petaled flowers that resemble a cross, each has been modified to maximize its edible parts.
The heads of cauliflower are called curds. Old-fashioned white cauliflower lacks green chlorophyll because as the curd develops, the leaves surrounding it envelop it and shield it from the sun.
The hottest thing in cauliflower, though, are the pretty colored ones. The purple variety, called Jacaranda, gets its color from the red pigment anthocyanin, antioxidant flavonoids found in red cabbage, berries and red wine.
There are two common green varieties, one a cross between a broccoli and cauliflower. The other is called broccoli romanesco, with spiked florets and a milder flavor.
Orange cauliflower is relatively new, developed in 2004 by Cornell University crucifer breeder Michael Dickson. Its orange color means it is higher in vitamin A than white varieties.
The smell that cauliflower emits when cooking is caused by sulfur compounds. To minimize the smell, minimize the cooking time.