Ontario Science Centre Blumer, Sugarman, Dummer 08 09

What a great time I had a few years ago with Bob Blumer (Chef, Author and TV host) and Dave the Ontario Science Centre resident scientist for Food Science – Unearthed part of the summer series for kids Food: Sink your teeth into Science. Bob prepared popcorn cauliflower (check out the recipe at the end of this blog) while Dave and I explained the process of what happens when the sugars in a vegetable caramelize.

On Trend for 2014

Now fast forward to 2014 and cauliflower has been proclaimed as the new trending vegetable grabbing this title from last year’s powerhouse vegetable, kale. The human health benefits of cauliflower consumption have undoubtedly led to the 2014 honour. Cauliflower is a member of the brassica vegetable family alongside broccoli, kale, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. One cup of cauliflower has only 26 calories with 52mg of vitamin C (good for immune, skin and hair health) which is 85% of our Daily Value plus is a source of potassium (assists to regulate your heart beat and hydration). Cauliflower has also found its place within the gluten free niche market, acting as a replacement for crusts on pizzas and pies. Do you have favourite colour of cauliflower – white, orange, yellow, green and purple?

Purple Cauliflower and Health

Does it make sense to pay an increased price for these colourful plants compared to white cauliflower? The research is minimal for the green, yellow and orange varieties; however, purple cauliflower has shown to have further beneficial compounds than the standard white stock. Purple cauliflower can attribute its colour to the presence of anthocyanins; these compounds are water-soluble and have been suspected to impart the purple colour in the plant. The results of a recent study indicated that purple cauliflower consisted of higher antioxidant activities than other anthocyanin-rich vegetables including red cabbage, purple carrots, purple and red potatoes, or red onions (1). Check out my blog Purple Foods What’s the Deal for more information about the health benefits of purple foods.

White Cauliflower and Health

Most recently, the mechanisms of a compound named sulforaphane, have been studied for anti-carcinogenic activity against prostate and pancreatic cancers (2). In prostate cancer specifically, sulforaphane decreased expression of an enzyme that suppresses the activity of the tumour genes (3). Although the mechanisms are not fully understood, researchers have found that suppression of the enzyme has been found to block prostate cancer cell growth, which further promotes the benefits of brassica vegetable consumption (3). This year’s trending nutrient packed veggie can be served mashed, grilled, broiled, boiled, barbequed or steamed! Enjoy it individually or within salads, soups, casseroles and stir-fries.

Recipe for Bob Blumer’s Cauliflower Popcorn

Bob Blumer Cookbook

The caramelization process converts the cauliflower’s natural sugars into sweetness. The browner the florets, the sweeter they taste.

Ingredients:

1 head of cauliflower

4 tablespoons of olive oil

1 tablespoon of salt (with it being heart month try the salt-free Mrs. Dash Table blend)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425°F. Cut out and discard cauliflower core and thick stem. Trim remaining cauliflower into florets the size of golf balls. In a large bowl, add cauliflower, olive oil and salt. Toss thoroughly. Spread cauliflower on a baking sheet (lined with parchment paper). Roast in oven for 1 hour (turning 3 or 4 times during roasting) or until each floret is golden brown. Fill popcorn containers with the cauliflower and serve immediately.

Enjoy and try it as a fun snack for Olympic watching!

References:

  1. Li H et al. Highly pigmented vegetables: Anthocyanin compositions and their role in antioxidant activities. Food Research International. 2012; 46(1):250-259.
  2. Herr I, Rausch V. Sulforaphane as New Therapeutic Agent for Targeting of Cancer Stem Cells with Focus to Prostate and Pancreatic Cancer. Stem Cells and Cancer Stem Cells. 2012; Vol 7: 27-32. Springer Netherlands.
  3. Black, C., Watson, G., & Ho, E. (2013). Sulforaphane Decreases Ezh2 Expression in PC3 Prostate Cancer Cells.