What is cauliflower?

A brassica, like cabbage and broccoli, cauliflower is a mass of tiny, tightly packed flower heads (called curds), which grow from a thick central stem to form a single, round head, cupped by green leaves. It has a firm, almost waxy texture, and a mild, delicate flavour.

Most cauliflowers are white, but it's also possible to find green and purple varieties, as well as the sweeter Romanesco cauliflower, with its distinctive pointed florets. Like all brassicas, cauliflower smells very unpleasant if overcooked, so brief cooking is essential.

How to prepare cauliflower

Cut off the surrounding leaves (if they're fresh, they can be cooked, too. Keep thicker-stalked veg for stock). For large cauliflowers, cut off individual florets from the central stem and cut again if necessary. You should end up with florets of a comparable size, so that they all cook at the same pace. Then wash. Smaller, baby cauliflowers can be cooked whole.

How to cook cauliflower

The florets are great used raw in a salad or as part of a crudité selection served with dips.

Cooked cauliflower florets keep their shape best when steamed (5-10 mins) – remember to place them upright in the steamer. It can also be boiled (takes 5-10 mins for florets; around 10 mins for a whole cauliflower). For both cooking methods, test regularly with the tip of a knife to make sure they don't overcook.

Cauliflower can be cut into 'steaks' or wedges and grilled or barbecued so they pick up lots of flavour and char.

Whole cauliflowers can be roasted and carved, like this whole roasted cauliflower with anchovy sauce.

For more recipe inspiration, browse our cauliflower, vegan cauliflower and cauliflower cheese collections, plus read our guide to the top 10 ways to serve cauliflower.

You can also use cauliflower to make a rice substitute.

Watch our video for tips on how to make cauliflower rice:

How to store cauliflower

Store cauliflower in the fridge. It will keep for several days.

When is cauliflower in season?

All year round, but at its best from mid December through to mid April.

Learn how to grow your own cauliflower from the experts at Gardeners’ World.

Choose the best cauliflower

Go for cauliflowers with pure white heads with no discolouration, and crisp green leaves. The colour of the base is a good indication of how recently it's been picked – the whiter, the fresher.

Alternatives to cauliflower

Try broccoli.