What's the Deal with Orange and Purple Cauliflower?

Ingredient Intelligence

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While it's easy to get caught up with winter squash at the farmers market right now, keep moving along. There are even more exciting things happening. Like orange and purple cauliflower!

Here's what you should know about these vibrant vegetables!

Colored cauliflower started popping up at farmers markets about ten years ago, and it's become increasing popular and more widely available in the last few years.

Where does the color come from?

No, they're not painted or dyed! Purple cauliflower gets its beautiful hue, which can vary from pale to jewel-toned, from the presence of the antioxidant anthocyanin, which is also found in red cabbage and red wine.

Orange cauliflower was first discovered in Canada in 1970, although it took years of crossbreeding before it was widely available. The color comes from a genetic mutation that allows the plant to hold more beta carotene. It also contains about 25% more vitamin A than white cauliflower.

What does it taste like?

Colored cauliflower holds the same firmness, crumbly florets, and texture as its white counterpart, with subtle differences in taste. Orange cauliflower is also dubbed "cheddar" cauliflower, though it tastes nothing like cheese. Its flavor is mild, slightly sweet, and creamy. Similarly, purple cauliflower is mild and slightly sweet with nutty nuances.

Where to buy colored cauliflower?

Your best bet is to check out your local farmers market, though you may also have luck finding orange and purple cauliflower at stores like Whole Foods. Here in the Northeast colored cauliflower is in peak season during the fall months, though you're likely to find it year round in California.

What to look for

While the hue of colored cauliflower can range from subtle to vibrant, tone is no indication of freshness. Look for cauliflower that has uniform color with densely packed florets that are free from brown spots and blemishes. It should feel heavy for it size, and the leaves should look fresh and vibrant. Wilted leaves indicate an older head of cauliflower.

Cooking with colored cauliflower

Cook with colored cauliflower just as you would with white cauliflower! You can roast it, steam it, mash it, rice it or make it into a soup. And, of course, you can also eat it raw.

Have you ever tried colored cauliflower? What's your favorite way to eat it?

(Image credits: Kelli Dunn)