“By all these lovely tokens,
September days are here
With summer’s best of weather
And autumn’s best of cheer.”
One vegetable plentiful right now is Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea). The name means ‘cabbage flower’ coming from Latin caulis (stalk) and floris (flower) and it is a member of the cabbage family – along with Brussel sprouts, collards, mustard, turnips, kohlrabi, kale and watercress. Read on for delicious two cheese cauliflower mash recipe
September can be damp and wet and it is the season for late summer fungal growth, mushrooms in the meadows and a colourful variety of toadstools under the trees. Summer this year has been wet, a terrible season for gardeners, and orchard windfalls are attracting hornets, wasps, butterflies and birds feasting on the rotting fruit. Do let’s hope we get some warm, sunny days before Autumn sets in full.
Traditionally 24th September was the day harvesting began in medieval England. As the last of the crops were gathered in there used to be a ceremony called ‘Calling the Mare’. Farmers trying to prove they had the best reapers would attempt to get their crops in before their neighbours. The last sheaf was used to make the shape of a mare, which was then sent round to the farmers who were still busy gathering. It was a way of saying to the farmers that wild horses would be after the crops so best hurry up. The last farmer to receive the mare and finish would keep it and display it all the following year. Michaelmas Day on 29th September is traditionally the last day of the harvest season.
So it is time to visit the farmers markets for delicious fruit and vegetables. There is plenty to choose from and the hedgerows will also soon be full of free food.
One vegetable plentiful right now is Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea). The name means ‘cabbage flower’ coming from Latin caulis (stalk) and floris (flower) and it is a member of the cabbage family – along with Brussel sprouts, collards, mustard, turnips, kohlrabi, kale and watercress.
It is as its name implies, a flower growing from a plant, which in its early stages resembles broccoli its closest relative. While broccoli opens outward to sprout bunches of green florets, cauliflower forms a compact head (also called the curd) of undeveloped white flower buds. The curd is surrounded by heavy green leaves to protect the flower buds from the sunlight. This lack of exposure to sunlight inhibits chlorophyll development thus it remains a white colour.
When buying cauliflower look for heads that are white or creamy white, firm, compact and heave for their size. Avoid any that have any discolouration of the head or leaves and any brown patches. Cauliflowers contain a good amount of vitamins A and C, folate, fibre and complex carbohydrates.
As a child I only remember cauliflower served with cheese sauce (with an occasional caterpillar) but now you see it used in all sorts of recipes and it is especially good eaten raw as a crunchy, nutritious addition to your crudite tray for dipping into dressings or dips. You can stir cooked cauliflower into your mashed potato to enhance the texture or just make your own cauliflower mash – see recipe below.
When you cook cauliflower leave the head whole or cut it up into florets. Cooking it quickly will help reduce the slightly odorous compounds, preserve the crispness and colour and reduce the loss of nutrients that will leach into the water when boiled. Steaming or microwaving are better for preserving any vitamin content. Cauliflower may turn yellow in alkaline water. To help keep the whiteness a tablespoon or milk or lemon juice can be added to the cooking water. Avoid cooking cauliflower in an aluminium or iron pot as the chemical compounds will react and turn the vegetable yellow in an aluminium pot and a brown/blue green colour in an iron one.
1 medium cauliflower
100g feta cheese
50g Boursin herb cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Steam the cauliflower until tender. Drain well. Put in food processor until texture is smooth and creamy or mash with a potato masher. Add the two cheeses, and stir until completely melted. Add pepper to taste.
Did you know:
There are also green and purple varieties of cauliflower.
Another newer member of the family is Broccoflower, a cross between broccoli and cauliflower.
In literature – Mark Twain called the cauliflower “cabbage with a college education.”