< Vegetables



The French named the plant precisely—chouxfleur—cabbage flower. Unlike other members of the cabbage family, however, the leaves do not serve as food. Instead, the massy head of immature flowers and seedpods is cut, steamed, boiled, roasted, pickled, or eaten raw. Lore held that they had been introduced to England from Cyprus at the beginning of the 18th century[1]. Subject to centuries of plant breeding, the cauliflower by the 19th century had attained floral density, myriad colorings, increased size, and great delicacy of flavor. Despite the playful experimentation with green, red, purple, orange, and gray coloring, the marked preference of the buying public was for white heads, the brighter and more unblemished the better. Averse to the extremes of American seasonal temperatures, the cauliflower proved difficult to grow in many regions as a field crop. But its flavor, and its association with European fine dining, generated sufficient demand to make it a major greenhouse crop around American cities. Grown annually from seed, gardeners opted for one of two cropping times: they planted in mid-September for a Spring harvest, or May for an autumn harvest. Cauliflower varieties were developed to suit each season, with the “Early Dutch” and “Late Dutch” enjoying particular favor in antebellum America[2]. During the latter half of the 19th century a number of varieties developed in Europe & one American breed vied for the seed buyer’s favor. Truth be known, the qualities differed little from variety to variety, with the old distinction between early and late cauliflowers remaining in force. Grown in rich loose soil, or in cold frames, the seedlings were often covered in dry hay. Weak plants were pick out after several weeks of growing. Plants were spaced in rows 20 inches apart. Once the flower mass had formed into a head, the surrounding leaves were tied over the head to keep it blanched. When cooked, prejudice held that it not be boiled with meat or any other vegetable[3]. Imperfect heads were reserved for pickling.

1. Robert Buist, Family Kitchen Gardener (Philadelphia: Collins, 1850), p. 43.
2. Robert Buist, R. Buist’s Catalogue of Horticultural and Agricultural Seeds and Implements (Philadelphia: T.K. & P. G. Collins, 1842), p. 5. 3. Alexander Watson, The American Home Garden (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1859), p. 135.

Early Paris    History

- short stalk, white head

Half-Early Paris, or Nonpareil    History

- a very superior variety, much used by market gardeners, a sure header

Erfurt Large Early White    History

- a large and excellent early variety

Erfurt Earliest Dwarf    History

- the earliest variety grown; low, with pure white curd; the best and surest to head, so acknowledged by the best gardeners of Europe.

Early London    History

- a well known and valuable variety

Lenormand’s    History

- one of the largest and hardiest

Lenormand’s Short-Stemmed    History

- new (as of 1871), a late variety, producing very large, well-formed heads

Large Asiatic    History

- a fine, large, late variety, one of the best of the large sorts

Stadtholder    History

- a large German variety, very large head and fine flavor

Walcheren    History

- a very hardy variety, and by many considered the best

Early Walcheren    History

- vigorous, hardy; not only resists the cold in winter, but the drought in summer

Carter’s Dwarf Mammoth    History

- early, dwarf, compact and hardy

Imperial New    History

- large, early French variety; highly recommended

Veitch’s Autumn Giant    History

- a vigorous grower, heads very large and superior quality; plants, however, must be put out early, or they will not fully head before the ground freezes.

Frogmore Forcing    History

- a short-stemmed, early variety

Italian New Early Giant    History

- the heads cook tender and are of fine flavor

Early Snowball    History

- highly esteemed by market gardeners for its earliness and reliability as a sure header.

Large Algiers    History

- late variety, of the very best

Boston Market    History

- This variety has been brought to the greatest perfection; dwarf and robust (W.H. Spooner’s Seed Catalogue, 1874).

Cooking Cauliflowers (Genesee Farmer 1833)    History

Cut of the middle size when close and white, trim off the outside leaves, cut the stalks off flat at the bottom, and let it lie in salt and water a little while; then put it into boiling water with a handful of salt in it; have plenty of water and keep the vessel uncovered; skim the water well until it is well parboiled. Next it should be immersed in cold water for some time, say fifteen minutes, till it is nearly wanted for the table, then on being boiled for a few minutes it will become more firm and crisp than if cooked the usual way, that is without being immersed in cold water. A small cauliflower will require from fifteen to twenty minutes, and a large one from twenty to twenty-five minutes to cook; the rule is to take it up as soon as a fork will enter the stem easily, a minute or two longer boiling will spoil it, and its excellence may be destroyed by an ignorant or careless manner of preparing it for the table. It may be eaten with the gravy from the meat, or drawn butter, or with vinegar as best suits. If it is designed to imitate green peas, a little loaf sugar previously made fine should be sprinkled over it immediately before serving. It should never be forgotten by the cook that the water must be boiling whenever the cauliflower is put into it, whether once of twice, and should be skimmed during the time it is cooking. O. T. [Otis Turner], Genesee Farmer 3, 27 (July 6, 1833), p. 211.

Cauliflower in White Sauce (American Domestic Cookery 1823)    History

Half boil it; then cut it into handsome pieces, and lay them in a stew-pan with a little broth, a bit of mace, a little salt, and a dust of white pepper; simmer half an hour: then put a little cream, butter and flour; shake, and simmer a few minutes, and serve. An Experienced Housekeeper, American Domestic Cookery (New York: Duyckinck, 1823), p. 192.

Cauliflowers and Parmesan (American Domestic Cookery 1823)    History

Boil a cauliflower; drain it on a sieve, and cut the stalk so that the flower will stand upright about two inches above the dish. Put it into a stew-pan, with a little white sauce; let it stew till done enough, which will be but a few minutes, then dish it with the sauce round, and put Parmesan grated over it. Brown it with a salamander. An Experienced Housekeeper, American Domestic Cookery (New York: Duyckinck, 1823), pp. 192-193.

Pickled Cauliflowers (Cook’s Own Book 1840)    History

Cut the cauliflowers in pieces, and throw them into boiling water for a quarter of an hour; then lay them on cloths to drain. Put them in a jar with cloves and salt, and cover them with the best vinegar. A Boston Housekeeper, The Cook’s Own Book, and Housekeeper’s Register (Boston: Munroe and Francis, 1840), p.. 43.

Fried Cauliflower (Lady’s Receipt-Book 1847)    History

Having laid a fine cauliflower in cold water for an hour, put it into t pot of boiling water that has been slightly salted, (milk and water will be still better,) and boil it twenty-five minutes, or till the larsge stalk is perfectly tender. Then divide it equally, into small tufts, and spread it on a dish to cool. Prepare a sufficient quantity of batter made in the proportion of a table-spoonful of flour, and two table-spoonfuls of milk to each egg. Beat the eggs very light; then stir into them the flour and milk alternately; a spoonful of flour, and two spoonfuls of milk at a time. When the cauliflower is cold, have ready some fresh butter in a fry-pan over a clear fire. When it has come to a boil and has done bubbling, dip each tuft of cauliflower twice into the pan of batter, and fry them a light brown. Send them to table hot. Miss Leslie, The Lady’s Receipt-Book (Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1847), p. 40.

Cauliflower Macaroni [Cauliflower with Cheese Sauce] (Lady’s Receipt-Book 1847)    History

Having removed the outside leaves, and cut off the stalk, wash the caulifower, and examine it thoroughly to see if there are any insects about it. Next lay it for an hour in a pan of cold water. Then put it into apot of boiling milk and water, that has had a little fresh butter melted in it. Whatever scum may float on the top of the water must be removed before the cauliflower goes in. Boil it steadily, half and hour, or till it is quite tender. Then take it out, drain it, and cut it into short sprigs. Have ready three ounces of rich, but not strong cheese, grated fine. Put into a stew-pan a quarter of a pound of fresh butter; nearly half of the grated cheese; two large table-spoonfuls of cream or rich milk; and a very little salt and cayenne. Toss or shake it over the fire, till it is well mixed, and has come to a boil. Then add the tufts of cauliflower; and let the whole stew together about five minutes. When done, put it into a deep dish; strew over the top the remaining half of the grated cheese, and brown it with a salamander or a red hot shovel held above the surface. This will be found very superior to real macaroni. . Miss Leslie, The Lady’s Receipt-Book (Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1847), pp. 40-41.