If you haven’t noticed, cauliflower’s been on the rise lately. I didn’t really think much of it until I saw this video on Twitter, and had to look into just what the appeal of a Cauliflower Wellington was.

Let’s face it, it’s not the taste. Because from Cauliflower Wellington to cauliflower pizza crusts to cauliflower rice, most of these cauliflower trends in one way or another are trying to cover up the fact that you’re eating cauliflower. No one really likes cauliflower for what it truly is, but we keep buying it up anyway. As far as I can tell, there are three main theories:

1.) Actual Health Benefits?

At the end of the day, it is, in fact, a vegetable. Using it in place of a carb (especially for those who eat gluten-free) seems like a no-brainer if you’re trying to eat healthier (or not die). And it isn’t exactly as nutritionally devoid as one would assume from looking at it. It’s an excellent source of Vitamin C, an ok source of Vitamin K and a random handful of B vitamins, high in fiber and possibly the best plant-based source of choline, a phospholipid linked to improved cognitive functions. I do feel the need to point out, however, that, like with most vegetables, the act of cooking the cauliflower does break down many of these nutrients, so these trendy cauliflower products might not be as healthy as everyone thinks. But, ultimately, as someone who puts little effort into being healthy, I can’t shit on someone for wanting to eat healthier, even if it’s for superficial reasons or a short-lived New Year’s Resolution.

2.) A Blank Canvas

Perhaps its blandness is its strength. If people want to get creative with it, they can, because with something that devoid of flavor, the sky’s the limit. I’ve had some pretty good buffalo cauliflower that shows that trying to transform it into something new is not inherently a bad thing.

3.) Big Agro Wants You to Subsidize Their Waste

Strap on your tin foil hats, this is why I used Neil Breen in the featured image.

At my corporate cook job, we get a lot of our produce shipped in pre-cut (the cauliflower and broccoli florets are often way too big for anyone to possible eat in one bite, so we usually end up having to cut them back down again, which defeats the purpose… but I digress). And more often than not, the cauliflower we get in, despite their arbitrarily chosen expiration date, has already started to go brown. It isn’t spoilage, cauliflower just tends to oxidize quickly.

But, regardless of the “ugly food” movement, people don’t want to buy brown cauliflower. And these brown spots are easy enough to scrape off, but then you have florets with flat tops that make people just as suspicious.

So what can you do with all this ugly cauliflower? Grind it up and sell it at a premium.

This isn’t really a new concept. Ugly apples get made into applesauce. Other ugly fruits get made into juice. Ugly tomatoes get made into salsa. Ugly pretty-much-everything gets made into soup. The images of garbage dumps filled with mountains of produce that get romanticized in documentaries about food waste aren’t quite as prominent as they’d want you to think.

The fact that cauliflower browns so easily means that if all the reject cauliflower got made into soup, the market would be flooded with it. Big Agro needed to find new ways to sell people brown cauliflower to keep them from getting sick of it. And it worked like a charm.

Am I saying you’re a fool for buying these products? No. Hell, if we all stopped buying them, those mountains of food waste would just get bigger. I just don’t want to follow trends without knowing how they came to be (or paying an arm and a leg for them).

One thought on “The Secret Behind Cauliflower’s Newfound Popularity

  1. RJG says:

    In those Freshly meals, the “loaded mashed cauliflower” is by far their best side dish and seems fairly low calorie / low carb.

    On the other end of the spectrum you have Green Giant Cauliflower Veggie Tots or something like that. The macronutrient breakdown is similar to actual tater tots. They also make broccoli ones with the same issue. I guess people just see them and assume healthy, without checking the label (as admittedly I didn’t until post-acquisition).

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