Now is the time to enjoy Pennsylvania cauliflower

It’s cauliflower season in Pennsylvania. While local cauliflower is available in the early summer, the main part of the Pennsylvania crop is harvested from September through November during the cooler fall months.

About 100 acres of cauliflower, mostly in small acreages, are grown across the state. Nutritionally, cauliflower is high in vitamin C and fiber as well as the cancer-fighting indole compounds, so it is a healthy as well as a delicious vegetable choice for fall menus.

Dietary experts have long recommended including cauliflower and other members of the cabbage family (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards and kale) in the diet regularly, at least several times a week.

Some people object to the odor produced by cooking cauliflower and other cabbage family vegetables. The odor is caused by the release of sulfur compounds as these vegetables cook.

While boiling cauliflower in large amounts of water in an open pot will minimize the characteristic strong taste that some object to, it maximizes the loss of nutrients.

Steaming, stir-frying, roasting, microwaving or quick cooking in small amounts of water minimizes nutrient loss in the cooking process. Of course, cauliflower also can be enjoyed raw with some dip or in salads.

The following recipes from the 2013 Pennsylvania Vegetable Recipe Contest are tasty ways to include cauliflower in menus.

Asian style stewed cauliflower

Serves 8 as a side dish. Can serve 4 over rice as a vegetarian main dish. If so, replace fish sauce with no-anchovy Worcestershire sauce

1 head cauliflower

1 1/2 tablespoons canola or safflower oil

1 1/2 cups chopped onion

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

2 tablespoons chopped ginger

2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped, (or a 14 1/2ounce can of diced tomatoes)

1 tablespoon ground coriander seed

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 to 3 chopped jalapeno peppers

2 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup nampla (Thai fish sauce)

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/2 cup dry roasted, lightly salted peanuts

2 tablespoons low fat sour cream

Trim cauliflower into bite size pieces and heat oil over medium high heat. Add onions, garlic, ginger and saute for 2 minutes.

Add tomatoes and cook 3 minutes. Stir in coriander, turmeric and jalapeno. Add broth, fish sauce and sugar.

Bring to a boil. Stir in cauliflower to coat well. Lower heat to low-medium, cover, simmer about 15 minutes. Stir in greens, peanuts, and sour cream and serve.

– First-place prize in the Broccoli/Cabbage/Cauliflower category submitted by Marilyn Goldfarb, of Boalsburg.

Colorful cauliflower salad

Serves 5

2 cups bite-size cauliflower florets

1 medium green onion, thinly sliced

6 cherry tomatoes, quartered

2 slices thick-cut bacon, fried and crumbled

8 Kalamata olives, sliced

1/2 cup torn spinach leaves, lightly packed (curly leaf preferred)

3 tablespoons Greek salad dressing

3 tablespoons lite mayonnaise

3/4 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

Generous grinding of black pepper

Microwave cauliflower on high for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 minutes until crisp-tender. Rinse under cold water and then put into a salad bowl.

Add onion, tomatoes, bacon, olives and spinach. Make salad dressing by whisking together the Greek dressing, mayonnaise and rosemary.

Toss all ingredients together with black pepper. Chill at least 30 minutes before serving.

– Submitted by Frances Dietz, York

Quick buying tips for Pennsylvania cauliflower

The Pennsylvania Vegetable Marketing and Research Program offers these tips when buying fresh cauliflower:

Select tight heads with a white or cream appearance.

Avoid heads that are loose, spotted or bruised.

Refrigerate in an open plastic bag.