Monday, October 9, 2006

Mad Science: Purple Cauliflower

Yesterday the supermarket had an arresting display of five colors of cauliflower: white, cream, green, marigold, and purple. I detest cauliflower, but others at home love the vegetable, so I bought a curd.

Purple cauliflower

The tops of the florets are brightly colored, but the stems fade from pink to cream. I prepared it by cutting off a serving-sized hunk, trimming it into smallish pieces, and boiling them in a scant amount of water. That's when things got interesting – the cooking water turned inky violet. Huh. I suppose that's the antioxidant anthocyanins, but I wonder why the reddish pigments seemed to stay in the plant while the bluish pigments were released.

There are any number of vegetables that are fancy colors in the garden and, after cooking, are plain on the plate. But as these florets cooked, the purple parts stayed purple and the whitish parts became purple, too. I'm assuming that's because the cooking water dyed them and not because the heat of cooking activated latent color in the stems. So... maybe the colorful cooking water can dye other things, too? Like... fiber?? Has anyone tried this???

At mealtime, the cauliflower lovers initially suspected they were being served mutant broccoli and protested loudly. When that little misunderstanding was clarified, they tucked in and declared that purple cauliflower tastes just as good as regular. To my taste, there's a faint difference, not unpleasant, discernable just as one swallows, an elusive something that registers on the taste buds at the back of the palate, but I'm the only one who noticed it. Then again, I've never liked cauliflower. At least until now.

I saved the colorful cooking water. We're having lots more cauliflower this week (= more cooking water to save). There will be mad science dyeing this weekend. Happiness abounds roundabout Exit 151.


--Deb said...

Interesting . . . although I tend to be a purist. Cauliflower should be white, right? (grin) I do actually like it, by the way, although I don't get to eat it that often.

Of course, you can always put melted cheese on it . . .

dragon knitter said...

i think, if you use vinegar, you might actually get some color.

maybe a mordant like alum? who knows.

Devorah said...

Neat! Why not take some small samples out and acidify / alkalinize them to see if you get color change based on pH. Red Cabbbage water does it and you can get the whole spectrum.

Beth S. said...

I never cared for cauliflower either, until I had it curried. Whole different experience... it's so bland, it soaks up all the spices like a sponge. Mmmm.

But I never once saw a purple one. Wow.