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Cauliflower

...a Caribbean favourite

By Shirley Hall

Author of The New Caribbean Home Garden Handbook, cauliflower is another of the veggies you wonder how it evolved. It is a bit difficult to grow, but easy to cook in a variety of tasty dishes.

Cauliflower is a delicious standard for stir-fry, great, crispy raw in salads, creamed, or curried.

It is one of the Caribbean's most popular vegetables. It is part of the cabbage family and believed to have originated in Asia Minor. For 2,500 years, cauliflower has been a part of the diet in Turkey.

Early traders brought it to Europe. The Italians became famous for spicy cauliflower salads while the French chefs created creamy cauliflower soups. Asians mix vegetables and curry to make a cauliflower stew.

Trinidad enjoyed over 600,000 pounds of cauliflower last year.

Cauliflower has a white head, which consists of unformed flower buds that average six inches in diameter. The head is called a 'curd'. The curd forms off of a stalk.

As the curd is pulled apart, the cauliflower looks like a small tree enclosed in stiff green leaves, which provide protection from the sun. This leaf protection slows or stops the development of chlorophyll, which contributes to the head being white.

Raw cauliflower is firm and slightly bitter in flavour.

I've had reasonably good luck growing cauliflower but my secret is it needs partial shade. First I tried thick green shade cloth on a frame to shade during the hottest hours. I find translucent blue plastic even better as it permits constant partial sun.

The sun fights fungus, one of cauliflower's biggest enemies. If cauliflower is kept too wet the curd or head will turn brown from mildew. Cabbage-worms and black rot are cauliflower's most common enemy.

Seedlings should be at least four inches tall before transplanting. They should be spaced in the rows at least a foot apart. Cauliflower is best planted in raised beds so the soil can easily drain. Any interruption in the growing cycle of cauliflower, such as intense heat, drought, or hard rain, may stunt the development of the edible head. Cauliflower needs constant water, and biweekly fertiliser high in nitrogen.

When buying always seek clean tight white cauliflower heads with no spots. In cauliflower, size has no relation to quality. Uncooked heads are best kept in the fridge stem side down in a paper or plastic bag with a few holes poked in it.

This should prevent moisture and mildew from developing, and keep up to seven days.

Cauliflower is very nutritional especially when eaten raw. One cup of raw cauliflower has only 25 calories. It is very rich in vitamins K, and C. One cup has more than the daily requirement of B6, B5, B3, folate, biotin, magnesium, iron, manganese, and molybdenum. Again, the best cauliflower is organically grown as agricultural chemicals may offset all of cauliflower's nutritional value.

Cauliflower and other members of the cabbage family have compounds that activate enzymes, which may disable and eliminate cancer-causing agents.

Did you know?

Cauliflower's Latin reference is brassica oleracea var. botrytis. Cauliflower may yellow when in alkaline water. For whiter cauliflower, add a tbsp of milk, or lemon juice to the water. Do not cook cauliflower in an aluminium or cast iron pot. The chemical compounds in cauliflower will react with the aluminium and turn the vegetable yellow. While in an iron pot, it will turn a brown or blue-green colour.

Health note:

Cauliflower contains allicin to improve heart health and reduce the risk of strokes, and also selenium, which with vitamin C strengthens the immune system. Cauliflower assists to maintain a healthy cholesterol level. It has folate, a B vitamin needed for cell growth and replication. Cauliflower is recommended to women who are pregnant to help properly develop unborn children. Cauliflower is an excellent source of fibre to improve colon health and prevent cancer. It is also a blood and liver detoxifier. Cauliflower with turmeric may prevent or inhibit the spread of established prostate cancer.

Cauliflower lomain stir fry

Ingredients: 1lb cauliflower – broken into the florets, 1 clove garlic crushed, 2 tbsp vegetable oil for frying, 1 cup carrots chopped small, 2 pimento seasoning peppers sliced into 1 inch rings, 1 medium onion chopped into wedges, 1 tbsp sesame oil, 1 packet Chinese long noodles.

Method: Boil noodles according to directions. Heat oil to medium high in wok or large frying pan. Add carrots and cook for two minutes. Add sweet pepper and onions and cook for two minutes before adding pimento pieces. Stirring cook for two minutes. Add cooked and drained Chinese noodles and combine thoroughly with sesame oil. Serves 6-8.

Note: Meat may be added but only at the very beginning permitting flesh to cook and season for at least ten minutes.

Braised cauliflower

Ingredients: 1 medium head cauliflower (about 2lbs), 1 tsp sesame oil, salt, pepper and seasonings to taste

Method: Cut cauliflower into quarters and slice again into quarter inch thick pieces. Mix slices, oil, and seasonings in a large bowl. Spread on a non-stick baking sheet. Bake 25 minutes at 400 degrees. Turn the cauliflower every ten minutes until cauliflower is browned.

Easy cauliflower soup

Ingredients: 1 head cauliflower including the leaves, 1 medium onion, 2 large potatoes well washed, 1 stalk celery with leaves – all chopped small, 1 bunch chives chopped and separated into 2 piles, cubes veggie bouillon, 3 cups water, 1 tbsp margarine or oil for

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