Like Brussels sprouts, cauliflower is one of those misunderstood vegetables. It’s certainly not the prettiest veggie on campus, but it’s one of the healthiest.

When properly cooked and seasoned, cauliflower is delicious—one of my favorites. I buy it at least once a week, usually to steam or roast as a side dish.

These days, cauliflower is available year-round. A member of the Brassicaceae family (broccoli, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, collard greens), it delivers a cancer-fighting compound called sulforaphane. A half-cup of cooked cauliflower provides 45% of your daily vitamin C requirement, as well as 2 g fiber, while weighing in at only 15 calories.

When choosing an organic cauliflower, look for a head that’s white or creamy, firm, compact, and heavy for its size. Toss aside heads that have dark spots, brown patches or other discolorations.

When you arrive home, place your cauliflower (stem side up) in your refrigerator’s crisper, where it should last for up to five days. If you buy precut florets, eat them within a day of purchase, as they don’t store well.

The most exciting development on the cauliflower front is the range of colors available—from green (often called broccoflower) to orange and purple. If you’re a cauliflower neophyte, start with the green variety, which has a milder taste. Regardless of color, cauliflower may be eaten raw, so add some small florets to a salad for added crunch and nutrients.

When you’re ready to cook your cauliflower, peel off the stem leaves, turn the head upside down, and cut the stem at the point where the florets begin to meet. They will then start to separate on their own, and you can help them along with a few knife cuts.

Be prepared for a sulfurous smell when you cook cauliflower. Yes, it usually stinks when cooked, but that odor will not influence its taste. Be patient! After steaming florets for 3 to 5 minutes, you’ll be able to serve them.

Here are some final cooking tips:

  • If water touches cauliflower during steaming (or boiling), the veggie may turn yellow. To preserve whiteness, add a tablespoon of milk or lemon juice to the water.
  • Don’t cook cauliflower in an aluminum or iron pot. The veggie’s compounds will turn it yellow or greenish-brown when exposed to aluminum and iron, respectively.

Tune in Friday and Sunday for some weekend cauliflower recipes. In the meantime, try this Roasted Vegetable Medley.