The Many Colors of Cauliflower – Purple, Green, Orange, and White

Green, yellow, and purple cauliflower heads
Green, yellow, and purple cauliflower

Have you been seeing something in the supermarket or famer’s markets that looks like cauliflower but instead of the traditional white, the heads are purple, orange, and green?  Colored cauliflower started popping up in the markets about 10 years ago and have increasingly become more popular and readily available.    What are these colored cauliflowers?  How do they taste?  How to prepare them so they retain their color?

Cauliflower is an ancient vegetable that was naturally pigmented; over time, with selective breeding, white cauliflower evolved and became the market standard. The colored cauliflowers, like the white variety, are members of the cruciferous vegetable family.  They have a similar texture and taste—mild, sweet, and nutty.  The major difference is their color and with color, a slight difference in nutritional value.  In general, cauliflower is widely known as one of the world’s healthiest foods and has been cited in its ability to reduce the risk of cancer. Cauliflower is high in Vitamin C and Vitamin K which promotes a healthy immune system along with hearth and bone health.

White cauliflower matures creamy white if the head is void of direct sunlight.  Older cultivars need to be blanched (inner leaves are tied loosely over the small heads to reduce the amount of light penetration) to prevent the sun from turning white cauliflower to yellow.  Newer cultivars are self-blanching as the plants produce inner leaves that hug the heads tightly preventing light penetration.  No blanching is required for the colorful varieties.

Purple cauliflower gets its color from anthocyanin, a naturally occurring phytochemical that is also found in other red, blue, or purple fruits and vegetables, as well as red wine.  Carotenoids are responsible for the color in orange cauliflower; carotenoids are also found in carrots, squash, and other yellow vegetables and fruits. Orange cauliflower actually came about as a genetic mutation that allows it to hold more beta carotene than its white counterpart.  Green cauliflower, also known as broccoflower, is a hybrid of broccoli and cauliflower.  Green cauliflower contains more beta carotene than white cauliflower, but less than broccoli.

Colored cauliflower can be eaten raw, roasted, grilled, sautéed or steamed.  Cooks Illustrated experimented to find out the best method of preparation for holding color.   They found that the orange cauliflower proved to be the most stable; the orange pigments are not water soluble or sensitive to heat.  The chlorophyll in the green cauliflower is heat sensitive just like broccoli; overcooking will cause the cauliflower to become brown.  The anthocyanins in purple cauliflower leach out in water which dulls it’s color; color is better retained with dry heat such as roasting, grilling, or sautéing.   Prince de Bretagne, growers of colored cauliflower, also has tips for preparing and using.

There are lots of recipes available online for preparing the colored cauliflowers.  Enjoy the color!

Reviewed and updated 4-24, mg.

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Cherries, Nature’s Hidden Treasure

Four bright red cherries hanging from a branchFebruary is National Cherry Month.  Cherries are a summer fruit so why are they celebrated in February? Here’s some fun facts about cherries and why we celebrate them in the month of February.

George Washington’s February birthday is an annual reminder of the tale of our first President admitting to his father that he chopped down a cherry tree on the family farm.  The folklore tale has forever linked Washington and cherries to February.

Cherry trees come to life in February in Washington DC signaling the coming of the National Cherry Blossom Festival in late March and early April (March 20-April 14, 2019).  Thousands of trees and millions of cherry blossoms provide a spectacular sight.  The annual celebration started in 1912 when the people of Japan sent 3,000 cherry trees to the people of the United States to celebrate friendship between the two nations.

An additional link to February is National Heart Month and Valentine’s Day.  Because a single cherry looks a bit like a little heart, significant of both, it seems only appropriate that the cherry be celebrated, too.

Cherries bloom for a maximum of two weeks with peak bloom only lasting a couple of day. It takes about 250 cherries to make a cherry pie. The average cherry tree grows about 7000 cherries each year which is enough to make about 28 pies. It takes 30-40 bees to pollinate one tree.  70% of all the tart cherries produced in the US are grown in the northwest region of lower Michigan known as the Cherry Capitol of the World.  Cherries are not a native American fruit; they were brought to this country with the first settlers in the early 17 century.  Cherry pits can be used in pellet stoves to heat homes.

As a hidden treasure of nature, cherries are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and fibers. Tart or sour cherries and sweet cherries are rich in anthocyanins and quercitin, antioxidants which play a role in reducing total body inflammation, contribute to heart health, and help fight free radicals.  Being a good source of vitamins A and C, they help to strengthen the body’s defenses and improve overall health.  Studies have also shown that tart cherry juice may soothe sore muscles, speed recovery after working out, and help with sleep. A cup of cherries pack three grams of fiber and 87 calories (tart cherries).

Most people think of sweet desserts like cherry pie when they think of using cherries in recipes, but cherries can be used in savory dishes, too.  While fresh cherries are not plentiful in February, cherries are readily available dried, canned, frozen, freeze-dried and as juice; all can be used in a variety of ways.

Here are some ideas, beyond sweets, of ways to include cherries in our diet:
-Add frozen cherries to a smoothie for breakfast
-Add tart cherry juice to a smoothie for a post-workout recovery drink
-Add dried or fresh cherries to oatmeal, yogurt, or salads
-Eat a handful of dried cherries for a snack or add them to a snack mix
-Use fresh or frozen cherries and/or cherry juice in sauces.

Now by knowing a little trivia about cherries and adding cherries to our life, there’s no reason “life can’t be a bowl full of cherries,” right?

Reviewed and updated 6/2024, mg.

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Celebrate Maple Syrup Day!

Two containers of maple syrupGet the the pancakes, French toast or waffles ready for National Maple Syrup Day,  December 17th! Top them off with delicious and nutritious maple syrup!

Even though pancake syrup and maple syrup reside side-by-side next to each other on grocery shelves, they are not the same thing. Maple syrup is a pure product and contains no additives or preservatives. The maple syrup we find in containers begins it’s life as sugar in the leaves of maple trees, produced by the process of photosynthesis. The sugars are transported into the wood for winter storage in the form of carbohydrates. In the spring they are converted to sucrose and dissolved in the sap to flow through the tree. After that sap is collected it is boiled down to reduce the water content and concentrate the sugars. Those sugars caramelize giving us the characteristic color and flavor of maple syrup. It takes about 43 gallons of sap boiled down to make a gallon of maple syrup.

Pancake syrup is a highly processed product. It is made from corn syrup or high-fructose corn syrup. Pancake syrup also has coloring, flavoring, and preservatives added to it.

Maple syrup is rich in manganese, a mineral and also has antioxidants that may offer health benefits.  But like pancake syrup, it has a high high sugar content which can lead to tooth decay and raise blood sugar. further health problems for people with diabetes.

In March 2015, the United States Department of Agriculture implemented changes in the labeling system for syrup so it matches up with international standards. All maple syrup is now Grade A, followed by a color/flavor description. The changes are as follows:

Grade A Light Amber is now Grade A Golden Color/Delicate Taste

Grade A Medium Amber is now Grade A Amber Color/Rich Taste

Grade A Dark Amber is now Grade A Dark Color/Robust Taste

Grade B is now Grade A Very Dark Color/Strong Taste

Once maple syrup has been opened, it should be stored in the refrigerator where it will last six months to a year. You can also freeze maple syrup which will keep it safe indefinitely. If you are going to freeze it, put it in an airtight container and leave a half inch of headspace to allow for the maple syrup to expand.  Maple syrup that develops an off odor, flavor, or appearance or molds should be discarded.

Reviewed and updated, 5/2024, mg.

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Pepper Jelly

pepper jelly
Pepper jelly

Remember that pepper jelly you made last summer? The holiday season is a great time to begin using it. Spread on a brick of cream cheese and add some crackers for a simple and easy appetizer.  Used as a topping for a pork roast it will give the meat a spicy, sweet flavor. Spread on a baguette to make crostini with a bit of a bite.

With a bit of imagination you will find many uses for that delicious jelly. You can add to a vinaigrette, make “adult” PB&J sandwiches, or add some to a stir fry.

Enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Amaranth seeds for blog
A Nutritious Grain

I am trying to use more nutritious whole grains in my everyday diet and have recently discovered amaranth. This grain was a staple of the ancient Aztecs and Incas and is now known to be an excellent source of protein and other important nutrients.

For gardeners out there, it is good to know that amaranth grows well in the Midwest. It has a purplish-red plume topping and a reddish-green stalk. The greens have a delicious, slightly sweet flavor and can be used in cooking or in salads. The stems can be prepared like asparagus. The seeds (as seen in the accompanying picture) can be cooked like a cereal or sprouted. Because flour from amaranth lacks gluten, it is suitable for muffins and for flatbreads, but is not a good choice for yeast-raised breads. When substituting for wheat flour in recipes, use one part amaranth flour to three parts wheat. Nutrition information for amaranth is as follows:

1 cup uncooked grain = 716 calories; 29.6g fiber; 12.9g fat; 8 mg Sodium; 307 mg Calcium; 1075 mg Phosphorus; and 980 mg Potassium.

Beth Marrs

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

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Rhubarb is UP!

Rhubarb on May 3, 2013

Yes, the rhubarb is up in my garden and now I must be patient for it to grow to maturity. At that point the stalks can be used in tarts, pies, sauces, jams, jellies, puddings and drinks. My favorite way to use rhubarb is to make it into a crisp – it tastes as good as a pie but has far fewer calories since it has no crust. I tend to like my desserts a little less sweet, so feel free to use only as much sugar as you need for your taste.

Wait to harvest your rhubarb until the plant is three years old. This allows the leaves to grow and produce food for good crown and root development. During the third year, harvest only for a four week period. Wait until the stalks are 10 to 15 inches long, then grasp the stalk below the leaf and pull up slightly to one side. Remove leaves by cutting slightly below the leaf and discard them. Since the leaves contain a moderately poisonous oxalic acid, they should never be eaten.

If you have enough rhubarb to freeze, when it comes time to use the frozen rhubarb, measure while it is still frozen, then thaw completely. Drain in a colander and use the fruit in your recipe without pressing the liquid out.

The taste alone encourages me to cook with rhubarb, but the nutritional benefits of rhubarb are also significant. Rhubarb is high in calcium, lutein, vitamin k and antioxidants.

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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