Whether or not you are a Cauliflower fan, there is admittedly something extraordinary about broccoli’s pale sister.
In recent years the uses of cauliflower have multiplied tenfold. With these many new budding possibilities, one question is left unanswered: Is Cauliflower really a flower?
Should we consult a florist when using it to make gluten-free pizza crusts? Can it be used in bridal bouquets?
Is Cauliflower Really a Flower?
Cauliflower is technically a true flower. A flower is defined as a specialized part of an angiospermous plant. Angiosperms are the largest and most diverse group of plants, known commonly as flowering plants. There are over 275,000 species of these blooming beauties, including Cauliflower.
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Why Is Cauliflower Not Like a Normal Flower?
Many species of angiosperms boast brightly colored and fragrant flowers, but these tactics are primarily meant to attract pollinators to spread pollen and seeds and help the plant reproduce.
As bees and butterflies search for nectar or pollen, they are drawn to flowering plants’ vibrant colors and sweet smells like lilac and hydrangea.
Within the definition, it is included that flower also refers to the reproductive elements of the plants such as the stamen and pistil, making flowers like the Tiger Lilly a perfect study.
Even though the washed-out color may not seem quite as appealing as the golden skin of other garden goods such as Butternut Squash, Cauliflower can still add to your backyard patch.
There are actually many varieties of Cauliflower that can be grown or bought. Each species has a distinct color.
These colors can range from yellow to purple or green, much like the flowers we plant in butterfly gardens.
While Cauliflower does belong to the family of angiosperms it is easy to see that the Cauliflower we cook with does NOT contain any flowers.
That is because the head is the just beginning of the flower itself! The immature buds we see and eat are often called curds.
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So Why The Name?
The term we use today, Cauliflower, comes from the Italian word cavolfiore, which means ‘cabbage flower.’ Derived originally from Latin, the words caulis flos quite literally meant Cabbage Flower.
This name is incredibly fitting considering the resemblance between the head shape of many cabbages to that of Cauliflower.
Both Cabbage and Cauliflower also come from the same plant family Brassica oleracea. Other vegetables from this family include Brussel Sprouts, Kale, Broccoli, and Collard Greens.
So How Does Cauliflower Start?
If Cauliflower does not contain the same reproductive parts as daisies and lilies, how does it reproduce? As I mentioned above, the cluster (or curds) are actually the underdeveloped flowers of Cauliflower.
When allowed to reach maturity, such as in the wild, the plant will flower and produce seeds.
The small flowers that eventually develop have an easily recognizable 4 petal cross and grow on the end of long stems. These flowers and small stems (frequently called Fioretto) have recently hit grocery stores, boasting a sweeter flavor and softer bite than the traditional head cuts.
Why Is Cauliflower White?
Cauliflower clusters begin growing in the heart of the plant. This is for added protection from the elements and any hungry rabbits.
As the plant grows, the main cluster is surrounded by a layer of heavy green leaves. These leaves shield the immature buds from the sun.
Because the cluster is not exposed to the sun, there is no production of chlorophyll, the pigment that gives plants their green tint.
Because the Cauliflower we eat is harvested far before the plant matures the head remains protected and creamy white.
Why Choose Cauliflower?
Cauliflower has many varied uses. It can be ground into flour and used to make products from pizza crusts to pasta.
Large heads of Cauliflower are sometimes cut into thick slices then grilled or baked to give the appearance of a steak.
Traditionally Cauliflower is served much like broccoli: smothered in cheese or butter and served as a nutritious side dish.
Given its high quantities of vitamin C, K and B6, it is no surprise that people have tried to fit Cauliflower into their diet better.
Like many other cruciferous vegetables, Cauliflower contains important phytonutrients (chemical compounds found in plants) that can help combat certain forms of cancer in humans.
Alicia is the senior content editor and writer here at Food FAQ. She has extensive experience with acid reflux, heartburn, GERD, and various supplements. When not eating food for “research”, she’s watching “Friends” for the 100th time.