from the farm: the color purple

There are incredible colors growing at the farm this time of year, and they are not being worn by the flowers.  Purple vegetables of so many hues are popping up everywhere!

The stunners of the week were these purple cauliflower heads~

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But no less gorgeous: violet & lavender shades adorning carrots and leafy greens~

purple collage

These tones come about in a variety of ways.  Purple cauliflower derives its color from the presence of the antioxidant anthocyanin, the same compound that shades cabbage and grapes.

The carrots are an heirloom variety known as purple haze.  While their skin is a rich, dark shade, the interior is bright orange.  The purple skin will fade with cooking, so we enjoy using them in both raw and lightly cooked recipes.

The brassicas also take on a purple hue in the cold months, which is due to the plant’s mechanisms for surviving the dip in temperatures.  The wonderful upside of this is that the plant actually developes a sweeter flavor as a result:

Many of the plants from the Brassicaceae family –  including brussels sprouts, turnips, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and rutabaga – survive the downturn in temperatures by turning some of their stored starches into soluble sugars. This helps prevent the liquid in the leaves from freezing (think of how sugary liquids don’t fully freeze in your freezer). And since the plant sap doesn’t freeze, it doesn’t expand. And since the sap doesn’t expand, it doesn’t rupture cell walls. Which prevents plant stems from turning…limp. (Source.)

So, the purple shades indicate a sweeter flavor than in warmer months.

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Of cauliflower’s history, it’s said that “Cauliflower was brought to England by Flemish weavers in the mid-1600s and later became the rage of the French court, where Louis XV’s mistress, Comtesse du Barry had a consomme of veal, oxtails and cauliflower named for her.”

“In the modern era, cauliflower fell into a period of obscurity, languishing upon crudite trays and within obvious soups and gratins. Its renaissance can be attributed to the discovery of colorful varieties, such as the purple Graffiti and purple Cape.” (Source.)  (The wild origin of purple cauliflower is not known.)

It seems as though we have purple cauliflower to thank for the availability of one of our favorite vegetables!  And, one of our favorite recipes, the cauliflower & romanesco gratin, with cauliflower cream.

Photo by Steven Krause

Photo by Steven Krause

In the girl & the fig’s kitchen this week, the purple cauliflower heads were served thinly shaved, on top of the salad of the season.  As beautiful as they were delicious!

Hopefully your garden is surviving these freezing temperatures, and, if not, that you’re close enough to pay us a visit at the fig–always toasty warm and serving the yummiest of what this winter has to offer!

Happy eating!

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