Bulletin #4177, Vegetables and Fruits for Health: Broccoli and Cauliflower

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Broccoli and cauliflowerDeveloped by Extension Nutrition Specialist Nellie Hedstrom, University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

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Broccoli and cauliflower are flowering members of the cabbage family. Other cabbage family members include Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and turnips. Together, they are known as cruciferous vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables have health benefits. Increasing consumption of all fruits and vegetables helps decrease your risk of chronic diseases such as cancers, heart disease, or diabetes. Scientists have found that combining broccoli with tomatoes can maximize the body’s defense against diseases. Combining different vegetables increases their antioxidant capacity. Use a wide variety of vegetables and fruits in salads and other dishes for maximum cancer–fighting capacity.

Broccoli and cauliflower can be grown as spring and fall crops in Maine. Extend the growing season for these vegetables.

Nutrition Information

Broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin C and calcium. One-half cup of cooked, chopped broccoli provides the same amount of vitamin C as 1/2 cup of orange juice. Broccoli’s dark green color indicates that it is a good source of vitamin A.

Cauliflower is a rich source of vitamin C and a good source of potassium. Remember that the phytochemical activity of these vegetables is increased when they are combined with other vegetables.


Select firm, green, tightly headed broccoli. Some may have a purplish color. This is a mark of quality.

Cauliflower should be solid, heavy, and unblemished, and should have fresh green leaves.


Fresh broccoli and cauliflower should be stored in a plastic bag and refrigerated. For best quality, use within four days.


Wash broccoli thoroughly and trim off just the end of the stem. If the outer layer of the stalk is tough, peel it.

Cauliflower may be cooked whole or broken into flowerettes. When cooking cauliflower, add milk or lemon juice to maintain whiteness.

Both broccoli and cauliflower are excellent stir-fry vegetables and may be substituted for each other in most recipes. To keep broccoli’s bright green color, cook it quickly and leave the pan uncovered for the first few minutes of cooking.

Raw: Broccoli and cauliflower are popular in relish trays when cut into flowerettes and small stem pieces.

Steaming: To steam, bring one inch of water to boil in the bottom of a pan. Place a colander or a collapsible steaming basket in the pan. Then put the vegetables in the colander or steamer and cover tightly. Reduce heat to medium-low, but make sure it is high enough to keep the water bubbling.

A whole cauliflower (about 1 1/2 pounds) will take about 20 minutes to steam. Cauliflower or broccoli flowerettes will take 6 to 10 minutes. Broccoli stalks will take 8 to 15 minutes.

Microwaving: Place vegetables in a covered dish with 1/4 cup water. A whole cauliflower, trimmed and cored, will cook in 8 to 10 minutes. One pound of cauliflower or broccoli flowerettes will cook in 6 to 8 minutes.

Boiling: Place two gallons of water in a large pan. Heat the water to a rapid boil. Put the vegetables in a wire basket and place them in boiling water.

A whole cauliflower, about 1 1/2 pounds, will take 10 to 15 minutes. (Cook head down to keep underwater.) Cauliflower and broccoli flowerettes will take 3 to 6 minutes. Broccoli stems will take 1 to 2 minutes longer than flowerettes, so begin cooking them first.

Broccoli/Nectarine Stir-Fry

Broccoli Nectarine Stir-Fry Food Nutrition Facts Label (click for details)Serves 4

1 teaspoon canola oil
2 1/2 cups broccoli flowers, cut in bite-sized pieces
1/3 cup carrots, shredded
1 nectarine, cut into bite-sized slices
2 tablespoons green onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
3 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons reduced sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons almonds, slivered

In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil and bring to medium-high heat. Add broccoli and stir-fry for about 4 minutes. Add carrots and stir-fry for about 30 seconds. Add nectarine, green onion, garlic, ginger, water, and soy sauce. Stir-fry for 1 minute. Top with nuts. Serve immediately over cooked brown rice.

Red, White, and Green Salad

Red, White, and Green Salad Food Nutrition Facts Label (click for details)This salad is packed with vitamin C, has a good amount of vitamin A, is very low in sodium, and has no cholesterol.

Serves 6

1 small head of cauliflower (separated into flowerettes and chopped stem)
1 small bunch broccoli (separated into flowerettes and chopped stem)
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
1/2 medium-sized red onion, sliced and separated into rings

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
black pepper to taste
dash of nutmeg (optional)

Steam or microwave cauliflower and broccoli until crisp-tender. Place broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes and onion in salad bowl. In a jar, combine oil, water, vinegar, garlic, basil, dry mustard, pepper and nutmeg. Shake to blend well. Pour dressing over vegetables. Toss gently and serve.

Some content adapted with permission from University of Massachusetts Cooperative Extension.

Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

© 2008

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