Nutritional benefits of cauliflower, it is nothing but cabbage with higher education. This is as much a famous Mark Twain thought as it is misquoted. Most people take it out of context, mentioning only the second part describing cauliflower, and are under the impression that Mark Twain is ironically “biting” at the authority of the cabbage vegetable. On the contrary. He extols the virtues of a college education through his association with it. The writer wanted to express the idea that growth and the path traveled in hard and constant learning is rewarded, as from a bitter seed-nut gradually grows the sweet and charming fruit of the peach, and as from the inconspicuous cauliflower, nestled in green leaves, a white vegetable appears with different branches of the rosettes and with an interesting shape that is not found in other cabbage plants.
A little history about cauliflower
Cauliflower was once the most expensive, festively cooked and “showy” vegetable on the Victorian table. It was perceived almost as it is today, but even more so – it was an invariable part of the daily cooking of people of the wealthy class. With the Latin name Brassica cauliflora, cauliflower is an annual herbaceous plant of the genus Cabbage of the Cruciferous family and represents a significant challenge in terms of the complexity of its cultivation.
In Victorian times it required a lot of agricultural skill and work to be planted and grown properly, and the white color had not yet been hybridized. The leaves of the vegetable had to be tied carefully to envelop its developing rosets below the surface, thus preventing them from losing moisture and remaining white. Its year-round production required a slightly more complex growing system, starting before fall and continuing with the need to grow it in glass seedling boxes and greenhouses through the winter. Described by Arab botanists and well known to the Romans, cauliflower originated in Cyprus, where it was originally planted and cultivated.
It was cultivated and imported into France from Italy in the mid-16th century. Cabbage is often likened, like the walnut, to a rose-shaped brain. It is hard to imagine that it was once the object of universal culinary adoration at the court of Louis XIV, served in ingredient-rich dishes by sophisticated culinary masters. In Brittany, healing properties of cauliflower provided a good livelihood for the locals. Menon, an 18th-century food and household writer, comprehensively recounts that the vegetable “clarifies” the flavor wonderfully as a side dish to veal with a heavy sauce, and also pairs well with ham and cream.
A special stew with mushrooms and foie gras was prepared with it. Such decadently tempting and meaty dishes with cauliflower can probably be found on the plate of any modern gourmet. Cauliflower in the United States was first cultivated in Margueriteville in 1891, when William F. Van Benschoten planted a handful of seeds on his hilltop farm overlooking the foothills of the village. Vegetable production flourished in the region, and when the enterprising cauliflower lover’s first crop of cauliflower was ready to sell in the New York market, his neighbors followed suit and planted several plots of the vegetable as well.
While some farms in the area continued to produce cauliflower well into the 1990s, the Catskill Mountain industry boomed from the early 1900s to the 1940s. Not only does its cultivation support the financial support of local families, but it also provides employment for outsourcers, indentured labourers, railway employees, lorry drivers, crate makers and even commission house agents.
So important is the cruciferous vegetable to the local economy that the Catskill News (which was and still is one of the most important sources of information for mountain residents) reports bad weather, crop pest and disease outbreaks, yield forecasts and cauliflower prices as news on your front page. Increased competition in agribusiness operations—primarily in Long Island and California—led to a decline in production of the vegetable from 1950 onward. For a long time, however, the inhabitants of Margaritaville did not forget the cauliflower as a symbol of the locality and remembered its almost industrial significance.