Why Does Cauliflower Get Brown Spots?

Why Does Cauliflower Get Brown Spots?

Kelli Foster
Nov 8, 2016
(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

If you purchase cauliflower with any degree of regularity, you've probably noticed pale brown spots scattered over the white florets. These freckles are the most common defect on cauliflower. Sometimes they're already present when you buy a head of cauliflower, and other times you might not notice them until you pull it out from the fridge to finally make that soup you've been eyeing.

So, your veg has spots. Don't freak out — your cauliflower isn't bad and, most importantly, it's still edible. Here's the deal with those brown spots and what to do about them.

Oxidation Causes Brown Spots

A scattering of pale brown spots on the cauliflower curds isn't all that abnormal, and it doesn't necessary mean it's time to ditch that newly purchased veggie. The culprit for this discoloration is oxidation, which happens naturally the longer cauliflower is stored.

Oxidation is simply the natural change in the vegetable's color due to prolonged exposure to light and air. It's the same change that occurs when the flesh of sliced apples turns brown, and when ground meat starts to gray.

The good news is that you can still cook with this cauliflower. While the discoloration doesn't look appealing, it's harmless as long as the spots haven't turned a dark color or have a mushy texture.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Removing the Spots Is Easy

While they aren't harmful to eat, if you want to scrape away the largest or most prominent brown spots, this is easy to do. The easiest way to remove the brown spots is with a knife. Use the blade of a chef's knife to scrape away the brown areas or trim the tops of the curds that are discolored.

When to Toss the Cauliflower

If instead of pale brown, the spots are dark brown to black in color, the curds have taken on a mushy texture, or have an off-putting odor, it's best to toss the head of cauliflower and get a fresh one. These are all signs of decay and spoilage.

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