Cauliflower — How to choose and store

I’ve always been a fan of cauliflower, but I never would have predicted its rise in popularity in recent years! While it used to be relegated to the side of the dish, you can now find it used in place of rice and other grains, flours, and even steaks! Its low-carb, high nutritive value is a big plus. And the fact that it’s so delicious and versatile — it can be mashed, steamed, riced, sliced and broiled, sauteed, and baked — cinches the rating!

If you’re a fan, too, you’ll want to know how best to store your cauliflower so it lasts. As usual with produce, it starts with a good purchase.

Purchasing cauliflower

Purple and orange cauliflower heads

Choose a cauliflower head that’s:

• Blemish free. Choose heads without blemishes or brown or wet spots. Especially wet spots.

• Firm. The florets should be densely packed. If the head is soft, it’s on its way to spoiling.

• Nicely colored. The color should be even. White cauli should be a consistent creamy white or bright white (depending on the variety), and purple, orange, or green cauli (aren’t those fun?!) should be a uniform color. If the leaves are still green, it means the produce was harvested not long ago, a good sign! 

• Mildly aromatic. The cauli shouldn’t smell strong. If it does, it probably won’t last long.

Storing cauliflower

You don’t want to trap moisture close to the head, so when you get home, take the cauli out of any cellophane wrapping. Then either:

• Place the whole head in an open produce or plastic bag, with the stem side up.

Or

• Cut florets or “steaks” (slices), and place in an open produce or plastic bag or (what I do) in a glass storage container. I like this method because it makes prep easier later and also makes for easy, healthful snacking.

Head of green cauliflower with blue leaves

In either case, include a paper towel or clean cloth in the bag or container to prevent moisture buildup. (Some humidity keeps the florets from browning, but you don’t want the cauli to get wet.) Place in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. The best temp for cauli is below 40 degrees F (but above 32 degrees F).

If you have an abundance of cauliflower from your garden or farmers’ market, you might want to store it in a cool cellar, basement, or garage. The temp should hover right above freezing. If the temp dips below 32 degrees F, it will discolor (although you can also store cauli in the freezer, if prepared correctly; see below).

Washing cauli

Don’t wash the cauliflower head before storing. When you’re ready to cook or serve it, rinse in a colander. Pat dry. 

If your cauli is fresh from your garden (or a local garden), you might want to soak the entire head in salted water to coax out any insects. A tablespoon of salt per gallon of water should do it. Rinse and pat dry after soaking.

Reviving cauli

If your cauli florets are wilted, you can revive them much the way you can revive flowers. Cut the stems on a diagonal and stand them in a container of cold water. Place in the refrigerator. The capillaries in the stems will soak up the water and revive the buds in about an hour or so. 

heads of white cauliflower

Freezing cauli

If you have too much cauli on hand — or just know you’re not going to get to that one head you purchased, you can easily freeze it for later use. Here’s the best way:

  1. Remove the green leaves.
  2. Clean the cauliflower head (see above). 
  3. Cut the head into florets about an inch to an inch and a half each.
  4. Place the florets in rapidly boiling water for three minutes.
  5. Drain into a colander, then quickly plunge into a bowl or container of ice water. 
  6. Drain and pat dry.
  7. Spread the florets on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer until frozen. This will take an hour or so. 
  8. Then place the florets in freezer bags or containers. Label and freeze.

For best quality, use your frozen cauli up within a year or so.

What’s your favorite cauli recipe? I love mine roasted with freshly grated Parmesan! 

You might also enjoy:

How to buy and store avocados

Using leftovers

Salad greens — How to make them last

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