My Cauliflower Turned Purple: Reasons For Purple Tint On Cauliflower
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Cauliflower is a member of the Brassica family grown for its head or curd, which is composed of a cluster of flowers. The head is most often pure white to a slight cream in color, but what if there is a purple tint on cauliflower? Is it safe to eat purple cauliflower?
Help, My Cauliflower Turned Purple!
It happened to me the first time I grew cauliflower in my home garden; my cauliflower turned purple. It was my first foray into vegetable growing, about 20 years or more ago. Everything was an experiment.
The Internet was more or less non-existent, so I often relied on my mother or aunt to clue me in on gardening problems and possible solutions. Thankfully, they told me this purple tint on cauliflower was not a disease, fungus or pest.
Cauliflower is a cool weather veggie which thrives in the cool temperatures of spring and fall. As mentioned, it is grown for its whitish to cream head or curd. But cauliflower naturally has a range of colors, even tending towards purple, yellow, red or blue tints. This purple color in cauliflower is caused by the presence of anthocyanin, which is exacerbated by sun exposure. It is a harmless water soluble pigment found in colorful foods such as grapes, plums, berries, red cabbage and eggplant. Certain varieties, such as ‘Snow Crown,’ have a stronger propensity for a purple color in cauliflower heads.
Preventing Cauliflower with Purple Tinge
To prevent growing cauliflower which has a purple tinge to it, purchase a self-blanching variety which has been developed to reduce problems with curd tinting, or blanch or cover the head as it is developing. Also, schedule the maturation of the cauliflower for cooler months such as September and October.
Lengthy, hot summer days will cause a purple color in cauliflower heads; you may even see leaves sprouting out of the curd. If this has already happened, there’s nothing to be done about it except to take note for next year’s crop. To blanch a cauliflower head, tie the outer leaves over the developing curd when it is 2 inches (5 cm.) across, securing them with a clip or gardening twine. The leaves will shield the developing curd from the sun and allow it to maintain its whitish coloration.
Planting time for cauliflower is also an important consideration to avoid the formation of purplish curds. Cauliflower needs daytime temps of between 70-85 F. (21-29 C.) but with an early enough start time for a long enough growing season to support maturation of a large head. If you plant too early, however, a late season frost can kill the young cauliflower. You may need to look for early maturing or late maturing varieties, depending on the climate in your area and the length of your growing season. The earliest varieties mature in just 60 days, and in some regions, you can get an early harvest and then replant in June for a fall harvest.
Is It Safe to Eat Purple Cauliflower?
If it’s too late and the cauliflower curd is already tinged purple, don’t despair. Purple cauliflower is perfectly safe to eat. It may have a bit of an “off” flavor and, as such, you may want to use it raw; cooking it will only increase the “off” flavor. Heating the purplish florets will also change the color from purple to gray or slate blue, especially if your water is hard or has an alkaline pH — not the most appetizing hues. If you can’t stand raw cauliflower and want to cook it, add a bit of vinegar or cream of tartar (tartaric acid) to the water to minimize the color change.
Everything You Need to Know About Purple Cauliflower
Yes, the color is completely natural.
If you have been in a produce section of a grocery store of late, or wandering the farmers' markets, you may have spied a vegetable that stopped you in your tracks. Because when you are used to the snowy creamy whiteness of cauliflower, seeing one in vibrant purple is something of a shock.
But never fear — while the color may seem a bit fake and Barney-esque, it is not a dye it is totally natural, and purple cauliflower is delicious. If you spot it during your shopping and are tempted, here is how to handle this wonderful and colorful addition to best add razzle-dazzle to your cooking.
What Are Those Brown Spots on Your Fresh Cauliflower?
You picked out a head of cauliflower and popped it in your shopping cart without noticing the brown spots on it. Wondering if it’s still good to eat? You’re not alone. A lot of grocery shoppers are puzzled when they see this discoloration on their “fresh” pieces of produce. So, what gives?
According to International Produce Training, a brown spot on a cauliflower is one of the most common defects you’ll ever see on the vegetable. The reason why this discoloration happens so often is due to a natural process called oxidation, which happens when a cauliflower is stored for a long time. The longer a cauliflower sits in storage — such as a refrigerated grocery store shelf — the more likely it is to have a few spots or more. These types of spots are harmless, but they can sometimes affect the marketability of the product. (Rest assured, you’re not the only one who has had second thoughts about a cauliflower purchase due to those spots!)
That said, it’s worth keeping in mind that this type of discoloration is a preview for actual decay, which you definitely want to avoid chowing down on. (If you eat mold accidentally, some nasty side effects could occur.) The good news is that it’s pretty easy to tell if a cauliflower has gone bad.
If you want to make sure that a cauliflower is still edible, take a close look at the spots and check that they aren’t too dark and too widespread over the entire vegetable. Touch them to confirm that they haven’t taken on a mushy texture, suggests The Kitchn. And take a whiff to be sure that the cauliflower doesn’t have an unpleasant odor. If all things check out, your cauliflower is probably just fine to eat — and ready to be transformed into delicious meals such as cauliflower-crust pizza and cauliflower mac ‘n’ cheese bites.
But what if you just can’t stand how those spots on the cauliflower look? If it’s simply an aesthetic issue for you, it’s totally fine to simply cut off the pieces that contain spots with a sturdy kitchen knife. And voila — your tasty cauliflower recipes await!
The Cauliflower Renaissance
I love cauliflower. It has really entered a renaissance recently and cooks—professional to amateur—are finding many different ways to put a creative spin on how they prepare, cook, and present this anything-but-boring vegetable.
One popular trend at the moment is cauliflower pizza crust, which is as delicious and crispy as it sounds. All you need to do is simply process the cauliflower down into a fine purée, pack it down flat onto a standard pizza tray, and bake it briefly in the oven. Top with all your favorite pizza toppings, like tomatoes, basil, and oregano, and—voilà—your cauliflower pizza is ready to go!
But it doesn’t stop there: cauliflower tacos, parmesan cauliflower bites, honey lime cauliflower “wings,” and substituting finely-chopped cauliflower for rice in a stir-fry are all wonderful ways to use this unique and very healthy vegetable. There have never been more reasons to eat your vegetables—especially if we’re talking about cauliflower!
Purple on Stems
If your entire plant hasn't turned purple, but only parts of the stem, a disease may be indicated. Although cauliflower isn't as susceptible to the disease known as black leg as cabbage is, it is possible for cauliflower to contract the fungal disease. If you find brownish spots on the stems of some of your cauliflower seedlings, check to see if they have dark purple edges, which indicates black leg. Remove the affected seedlings immediately. In future years, do not grow cauliflower where other brassica crops, including broccoli and cabbage, have grown previously.
In all my classes of teaching the inspection procedures for cauliflower I’ve never had a good picture of this defect, fuzziness on cauliflower. Describing a defect, without a good picture is sometimes difficult.
When you do come across this defect you should be able to identify it, as the heads have a distinct “fuzzy” appearance. I describe the look as being somewhat blurry within the cello wrap. This defect is similar in appearance to riciness. There are few things to note when you do see this defect.
Number One: the USDA has a scoring guideline to use. If the fuzziness is affecting more than 33% of the head’s (curd) surface it is to be scored as a defect, as damage by fuzziness against the 10% tolerance for total defects. If you find over 66% of the head’s surface being affected by fuzziness it is to be scored as a serious damage defect, against the 5% tolerance. When I have seen this defect it is usually affecting almost the entire curd, thus it would be scored against the serious damage tolerance.
The USDA offers a little more of a description. From their own inspection instructions
Fuzziness is caused by the lengthening of the leafy floral bracts of the bud or flower giving the surface of the curd a velvety or hairy appearance. It frequently develops around the edges of the curd before appearing on other portions.
Number Two: The USDA states this defect is considered as being a condition defect, meaning the USDA feels this defect, or the fuzziness will progress on the head and become worse, affecting a larger portion of the head itself. Personally I have never seen this progress or become worse, nor have I ever seen a good head of cauliflower turn fuzzy in storage. Do I have doubts this will progress…….absolutely. If anyone has any first hand experience to counter my assumption, please share. The cauliflower is not adversely affected, except by the appearance. The defect has no bearing on the taste of the cauliflower. Overmature cauliflower, or cauliflower exposed to extreme heat while growing may taste somewhat bitter, but don’t assume all cauliflower with fuzzy heads will taste bitter.
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3 Comments on “Cauliflower- Fuzziness”
Thank you very much for this article. We’re growing cauliflowers for the first time this year and all of them have “fuzzy” heads. I had no idea what it was when I first saw it as I had never seen anything like that before. To my understanding “fuzzy cauliflowers” are still edible, is that correct?
Jim Says: August 5th, 2015 at 7:11 pm
Mine turned fuzzy from the onset and was somewhat yellowed. I assume this to be from not covering heads lightly with the leaves when they ere getting to be tennis ball sized but I am not sure. They did have a couple of green worms on them when I cut. Not sure if safe to eat. I have picture if you want to see.
Thanks for the comments. Cauliflower with fuzziness is still edible, as the defect only affects the appearance.
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