Cauliflower Without the Caul

Being a nurse, I always assumed that cauliflower was so named because it is white and lumpy, and a baby born with a ‘caul’ or remnant of the amniotic sac, has a thin white membrane covering a portion of its head or body.   Wrong.
Caul is latin for cabbage.

Being a somewhat competent gardener, I assumed that when I planted my cauliflower nice and early that I would get to enjoy the big globes of white lumpiness that are spectacular creamed, roasted or raw dipped in a variety of sauces.  Wrong.  I got no big globes.
(There was also the change in shade to this particular bed going from some morning shade to sun all day long – but that is another story…)

Lots of cauli-leaves!

I got no white lumpy stuff or even tiny globes anywhere on this plant!

There ain’t no caul to my cauliflower!

Being practical when it comes to my garden space I thought I’d just yank up all those non cauliflower-bearing stalks of large leaves and plant some beans.  I thought I’d chop them up in my Vita Mix into compost.  Wrong again.
Happily this time.

What if they’re edible?  Broccoli rabe is a high-end grocery item, right?

With the help of my 11 year old who is always willing to do research chores on the web for me, I discovered that indeed cauliflower leaves are edible.

So we ate them.

I found several links pointing to the same recipe for roasting cauliflower leaves.  Here’s how.

chop ’em down!

(This recipe was adapted from one by Mei Lei – I found it and further adapted it from Green Talk)
Use any leaves:  Cauliflower, Broccoli, Kale or any green:
Soy Sauce to drizzle over the leaves.  (I used Bragg’s liquid aminos)
Scallions – I used a leek – from the garden ; )
Four cloves of garlic (I didn’t have any garlic, flavor was still great without it)
Sesame Oil or Olive Oil (I used olive)
Salt and Pepper to taste

What To Do:
Pre-heat the oven to 400°F .
Wash the cauliflower (if you have any actual flower) and leaves and cut into bite-size pieces, discarding the toughest outer layer of leaves.
Smash a few cloves of garlic and chop them coarsely. Chop your scallions/leeks as well.   The whole scallion, not just the white part.
Toss the garlic, onions, and cauliflower with a generous splash of soy sauce and oil in a roasting pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Note, we omit the salt.   (I used a Pyrex  9 by 11 pan and just filled it up with the leaves.  If you have to many leaves make another batch.)
Place the uncovered roasting pan in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the green leaves are crisp and both the florets and the thicker stalks are tender and can be pierced easily with a fork.

chop your stem pieces much smaller than this so they won’t be so tough!

I recommend if you are using chunks of stalk and/or have chunks of cauliflower, that you start them out first in the oven for 5 – 10 minutes, then add your leaves.  Or make sure that you chop stalks into small pieces.  I liked the crispiness of the leaves but my husband did not.  So adjust your cooking time according to your Crispy Leaf Tolerance Level (also known as CLTL).

Green Talk also had links to some other cauliflower leaf recipes – this one sounds very promising to me!

Cauliflower stem & leaf soup

I LOVE eating fresh from the garden.  And even when I don’t have the brilliant, sweet, clear cut goodness of strawberries in the garden (Little Sis made an uncooked strawberry pie from her garden a few days ago), there is always unexpected goodness.  A lot of the goodness can’t be eaten, but only digested as my garden continues to teach me lessons about perseverance, flexibility, the reward of physical labor… and daisies.  Because really, how can you not see the bright side, adapt to change, and have a great day when you have daisies in the garden?

25 responses

  1. Interesting! I grew some cauliflower last year in my balcony garden. The did seem to take forever to develop the little “flower” bud when they did they grew like crazy. But then they grew TOO crazy because all of a sudden rogue shoots sprung up from the “flower” and eventually they were like weird starburst cauliflowers. I was sad and just tossed the whole shabang in the compost! Not sure what happened. BUT I see now I could have at least used the leaves for something useful!! Oh well. Live and learn. Thanks for sharing!

    • You are welcome. After discovering you could eat the leaves, but before cutting down the plants, I looked into the likelihood that my TN plants would ever bud in June and found that cauliflower is a persnickety plant to grow – so don’t feel bad. Your starburst cauliflower does sound interesting! You could name it after yourself as a new ornamental version 🙂

  2. We were lucky in that out of my 8 cauliflower plants, only 2 came up leaves only like yours, but I don’t know why, I fed the leaves to the chickens. With my other cauli’s they all came out at once and as I could only use one at a time, the others grew more and more into flowers rather than one big white bud, so next time I will pick, cook and freeze when they are at their best. But I would never have thought of roasting the leaves!!

    • The chickens did not even require roasting or oil or soy sauce did they? Indeed cauliflower seems to be not the easiest plant to grow, but so glad to hear someone got some!

    • Very interesting and good to know! I confess I bought these as young plants – but you never know that the nursery didn’t make that mistake. So I can blame the nursery instead of myself? Bless you!

  3. Thanks so much for the mention. I am addicted to any leaves. Turnip greens, collards, broccoli, etc. Sometimes cauliflower won’t head until it gets much cooler outside. You will have this gorgeous leafy plant and no head. I grow heirloom seeds. By the way, that uncooked strawberry pie sounds great!

    • You are quite welcome for the mention! I appreciated the info. I will try heirloom seeds – even earlier next year! And I hope you make that strawberry pie of my sister’s. I’m going to try the filling with a cobblery topping tomorrow as my husband is gluten free.

  4. Some cauliflowers are much longer season than others… just a note. I had this issue w/ broccoli once, not a head among two 25 foot rows. That’s the year we ate broccoli leaves…. Reminds me of the “Eats, Shoots, and Leaves” book hehe.
    Another good way to use them that I did was to make stuffed leaves like grape leaves or mini stuffed cabbage…meat/rice etc…

    • It’s a great idea to stuff them! They are large enough and tough enough to hold up to stuffing! I’ve got more out there…. Sorry to hear about your broccoli! I’m not sure that TN is cut out for either but I might try a shadier spot next year as well.

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