304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
It sounds almost ridiculous to wonder if cauliflower is man-made. Yet, even though cauliflower has been around for a long time, technically speaking – it is.
Of course, we’re not talking about genetic engineering in Dr. Frankenstein’s biology lab but something rather more natural. Let’s take a look at that.
Cauliflower is a plant from the Brassicaceae family. It can be grown on a biennial basis, but mostly it’s one of many plant species grown on an annual basis.
The most common form of cauliflower has a large flowering head and it’s a white cauliflower. However, there are other colors and purple cauliflower is a real thing and kind of awesome looking.
People eat cauliflower in the same way as other vegetables and it is often planted in mid-summer to deliver a beautiful fall harvest.
Yes, cauliflower is a man-made hybrid. It and some closely related vegetables originated with a process known as selective breeding.
Selective breeding involves using several closely related vegetables (or in the case of other things closely related “other things”) and breeding them together to try and elicit specific traits.
If you do this over time, you can get entirely new characteristics like cauliflower heads. But if you look closely at cauliflower, you’ll see that cauliflower heads resemble broccoli.
And, indeed, broccoli was also created through selective breeding.
Yes, the edible portion, the white flesh of a green cauliflower is absolutely vegetable matter. Selective breeding can only enhance existing traits, not transform a pant into something it’s not – it’s still the same plant species as when the breeding began.
One handy thing about selective breeding is that you can take a plant such as the cauliflower out of Southeast Asia and breed it for desirable characteristics that lend it to grow more comfortably in cooler environments. It’s a lengthy process but only the head and the edible white flesh of the cauliflower have that unique taste that makes it so useful to humans.
Brussel sprouts, Chinese broccoli, mustard plants, collard greens, romanesco broccoli, savoy cabbage, etc. are among several vegetables that belong to the brassica oleracea family and that’s because they were all selective bred from it.
Brassica oleracea is not the only plant that has been selectively bred to produce other species, natural strawberries were bred into the modern strawberry, the modern banana – Musa balbisiana banana species was crossbred naturally too based on desirable traits.
Natural carrots are purple but they were interbred to produce the yellow carrot and white carrots. Not only are they from the same family, but they have the same essential nutrient profile too. You can’t tell a white carrot from a purple one, except by sight.
You could also, in theory, reverse the process and create wild strawberries by breeding the current man-made hybrids back into their natural state. The same is true for brussels sprouts the plant could with the right focused breeding, lose its flower buds and revert to something else in the genus brassica.
From wild almond to orange trees, there are lots of man-made vegetables and fruit out there. Much of what we eat today wouldn’t be possible without selective genetic breeding.
Cauliflower is just one of those vegetables and it’s uniquely tasty and very useful if you want to pursue a vegan diet as it can help make alternatives to things like pizza crusts. Why not make something yummy with cauliflower today?
If you love cauliflower as much as we do, you might want to try cooking it in non-toxic cookware, and if you don’t know how to cook it at all, check out these cool cooking schools or these vegan blogs for ideas.