“Harvest of the Month” Munch: Cauliflower…or is it Broccoli???

Yolanda Willigis, Health teacher at Deer Creek School leading the Harvest of the Month lesson
Yolanda Willigis, Health teacher at Deer Creek School leading the Harvest of the Month lesson

This month students all over Nevada County tasted crisp, delicious and beautiful multicolored cauliflower…or is it broccoli?…but we’ll get to that later.  6,700 students from 22 local schools munched and crunched their way through white, orange, purple and green cauliflower thanks to Sierra Harvest’s Farm to School program.  The Farm to School program provides monthly “Harvest of the Month” tastings of local, seasonal, featured produce as well as farm field trips to local farms, in-school farmer visits, school produce stands with produce from local partner farms, “Tasting Week” with local chefs, and spring plant starts.

Tastings of cauliflower also took place in the cafeterias at Nevada Union, Silver Springs, and Bear River High schools.  A delicious cauliflower and broccoli salad was served and students at Nevada Union even had a chance to exercise their right to vote…vote for cauliflower and broccoli salad that is.  Students voted on how much they enjoyed the salad…Loved it, Liked it, or Would try it again.  The overwhelming winner?…they Loved it!!!  Elementary students in the GVSD were also served cauliflower in the school lunch program.  Students enjoyed fresh, raw cauliflower in one lunch and a warm cauliflower gratin with turkey bacon and cheese in another.  These menu items were featured as part of “California Thursdays”, a campaign focused on bringing more fresh, California-grown produce into our local school meals.

These beautiful heads of multicolored cauliflower made their way from JSM Organics, nestled within the ocean-facing hills and moderate climate of Monterey County.  JSM Organics founder, Javier Zamora, grew up farming in Mexico.  He entered college at age 41 and then established his own farm here in CA in 2010.  Javier’s strawberries, avocados, jicama and peppers are available at the Briar Patch Coop where he delivers fresh produce each week. 

Here are some notes of interest about the cauliflower…or is it broccoli?

  • Cauliflower is a crisp, mild cruciferous vegetable of the Brassica family. A cousin of the cabbage, cauliflower’s relatives include broccoli, kale, collard greens, and brussel sprouts.
  • Cauliflower has a compact head (also known as the “curd”) on a central stalk. Surrounding the curd are heavy, ribbed green leaves that protect the cauliflower from the sun and prevent the development of chlorophyll.
  • Thomas Jefferson, an avid gardener and seed collector, in addition to being our 3rd US President, recorded planting broccoli as early as May of 1767.
  • Cauliflower is a cool-season crop that likes moist climates and temperatures steady in the 60s. Cauliflower is extremely sensitive to unfavorable conditions and cannot withstand any real change in temperature. Unlike their hearty relative kale, cauliflowers will not survive a frost.
  • The traditional cauliflower we know and love has a creamy white hue, but this incredibly edible veggie comes in a rainbow of beautiful colors.
  • Orange cauliflower (also known as “cheddar cauliflower”) is a mutant cauliflower discovered in Canada in 1970. It is slightly sweeter and creamier than white cauliflower and the bright color comes from the extra beta-carotene naturally stored in its florets, which also gives this cauliflower 25% more vitamin A than the more common white variety.
  • Purple cauliflower is the healthiest of the bunch and has a sweet nutty flavor. The purple color is caused by the presence of anthocyans, the same potent antioxidant found in many deep blue/red fruits and vegetables.
  • Green cauliflower is available in the normal curd shape or with a fractalspiral curd (repeating pattern) called Romanesco broccoliAhha!  It is broccoli!  Romanesco broccoli looks perfectly prehistoric and as though it would sit delightfully atop the head of a large dinosaur.
  • One serving ofcauliflower contains 77% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C.  It is also an excellent source of choline which is essential for learning and memory.  It has a hearty 3 grams of fiber per cup and is high in protein and low in carbohydrates making cauliflower both filling and nutritious.
  • Despite this vegetable’s picky growing preferences, CA manages to produce an ample cauliflower crop year-round with 75% of commercial cauliflower being grown in the coastal valleys of CA.

Deliciously crunchy and delightfully healthy, cauliflower is a perfect snack or side dish served raw, pickled or cooked.  Dip raw cauliflower florets into hummus or serve pickled cauliflower with other crudités.  Virtually identical in texture, mashed cauliflower is also a fun alternative to mashed potatoes.  Here is a deliciously warm and flavorful recipe that would be perfect at your Thanksgiving table!

Oven-Roasted Cauliflower with Garlic, Olive Oil and Lemon:

Recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse,  www.foodnetwork.com


1 head of cauliflower (5-6 cups of florets)

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tbsp. minced garlic

2 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp. black pepper

2 tbsp. grated Parmesan

Chopped chives, for garnish


Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

Place cauliflower florets in a large sauté or roasting pan.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Place sauté/roasting pan into warm oven and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even roasting.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with Parmesan.  Garnish with chopped chives and serve warm.