Brassica oleracea var. botrytis: Cauliflower

Family: Brassicaceae
Common name: Cauliflower, Gobi

Cauliflower is a beautiful, mild-tasting vegetable that’s very commonly used in Indian cuisine. Brassica oleracea is a large family comprised of many related species like cabbages, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale etc., collectively called the Cole crops. The cultivar group of Botrytis contains cauliflowers and its variants.

Cauliflower plants are very beautiful, growing to a height 30-60 cms with broad bluish-green leaves arranged in rosettes; and lovely pearl-like cauliflowers nestled inside the leaves. The leaves are about 20-30 cms long with a very prominent, thick mid-rib which continues as a fleshy petiole connecting to the stem.

The leaves are curved slightly inwards to protect the growing cauliflower inside, except the outer leaves which are almost horizontal to the ground. The vegetable cauliflower is a large white head made up of small florets which are 5-10 cms long; the full head about 20-30 cms in diameter.

The top white part is called the curd or head, and this is the edible part of the vegetable. Leaves are also edible, though they are rarely used.

There are different groups of cauliflower like the Asian, Italian and European ones. Cauliflower heads are mostly white, but there are varieties with Orange, Green and Purple heads as well, the green one also called as broccoflower. Common cultivars are Cheddar, Orange bouquet, Alveda, Green Goddess, Minaret, Veronica, Purple cape, Graffiti and more.

Cauliflowers are slightly more difficult to grow in kitchen gardens compared to Cabbages, though with the right amount of sunlight and fertilization, you can have a bountiful crop. Being very close to the ground makes them susceptible to pests, the leaves being the most vulnerable.

Organic pesticides can help minimize pest infestations, so can hand-picking of worms at night when they come out. Harvesting should be done on time, since the cauliflower heads can become discolored after some time.

These versatile vegetables are a staple in Indian cuisine and is eaten raw, pickled, boiled, steamed, fried, grilled or roasted. Aloo gobi, a favorite vegetarian dish is made from potatoes and cauliflowers. There are many other popular dishes like Gobi Manchurian, Gobi 65, Gobi masala, Gobi paratha, Gobi mutter, Tandoori gobi etc. made with this delicious vegetable. Cauliflower rice is a preferred alternative to rice, for those on carb-free diets.

Cauliflower contain good quantities of fiber, helping in digestion and preventing constipation. The vitamins and minerals contained in it helps strengthen bones, also improves immunity and cardiac health.

Propagation is through seeds. If the cauliflower is not harvested when it’s ready, the plants sends out long stalks during it’s second year. These long stalks produce beautiful yellow flowers which turn into green pods which later turn brown, and contains small black seeds.