After flirting with the UK marketplace and its consumers for a couple of years, sweet sprouting cauliflower may have found its time to shine as that special new vegetable everyone wants to get their hands on. Here, Produce Business UK looks into cauliflower’s answer to Tenderstem broccoli
First developed by Japanese seed company Tokita Seed, sweet sprouting cauliflower has been likened to an edible bride’s bouquet, with long, thin-stemmed and tiny white-cream florets. Practical as well as a pretty face, the brassica is said to be sweeter, more versatile and easier to prepare and cook than its everyday counterpart, as well as not having the sometimes-wasteful thick stem.
Sweet sprouting cauliflower is a veg of many personas; its variety name is Fioretto, it’s known as Karifurore in Japan, and it has recently been introduced into Marks & Spencer as “Artisan Biancoli Spears”. A hit with Japanese, South African, US and Australian consumers, the spruced-up cauliflower got Tokita Seed nominated for the Fruit Logistica Innovation Award in 2014 and was stocked in limited Waitrose stores exclusively grown by Lincolnshire’s Produce World shortly afterwards under the name “sweet sprouting cauliflower”. Since then, food writers and bloggers have made cauliflower the vegetable of the moment and if they start to pick up on this pretty, flower-like version, it could be about to hit the big time.
Also known as: Fioretto, Biancoli, Karifurore, stick cauliflower
UK season: Late summer to early winter
Production: Mainly produced in Lincolnshire and Kenya, sweet sprouting cauliflower is grown in a similar way to traditional cauliflower, but is allowed to mature further so its florets separate to grow into stems. Its small, white heads are more spaced out and delicate than ordinary cauliflower and when they open like a flower, the crop is ready to harvest. Having a relatively quick journey to maturity once sown, the product flourishes in sunny weather and cool, moist soil.
Origin/history: Developed in the wake of Tenderstem broccoli’s popularity, sweet sprouting cauliflower is a broccoli hybrid and the product of more than seven years of research and development by Tokita Seed.
Tokita was keen to revitalise Japanese consumers’ opinions of cauliflower in general, hoping to remind people of the joy the brassica brought to them as children, in a somewhat stark contrast to many British memories of an often overcooked, soggy vegetable. Designed to appeal to all consumers, with an emphasis on children and affluent foodies, this hybrid has an answer for everything: it aims to be both tasty and visually attractive, suiting modern lifestyles and premium meal occasions.
Popularity: With food bloggers and food magazines hailing regular cauliflower as a hero, it was only a matter of time before a new hybrid was introduced to the market to give it a premium push.
A big part of the recent low-carb movement and a protein alternative in vegan food, cauliflower is here to stay and looking for a new way to market. “Cauliflower is definitely having a moment as people are discovering that this versatile veg can be used in all sorts of tasty recipes,” says Louisa Read, vegetable buyer at M&S, which launched the vegetable under the name Biancoli at the start of the summer 2016. “We’re excited to be adding Biancoli, which has a deliciously sweet flavour and tender texture, to the mix. It can be cooked up in a variety of ways and the extra sweetness means that it’s perfect for children, too.”
Appearance: Fioretto means “little flower” in Italian and many like to compare the cauliflower to the tiny white gypsophila flowers used in bouquets. Attractively built, the vegetable has white tops supported by long shining stems. With a softer texture than the cauliflower, this attractive brassica has enough firmness to stay upright, with long stems that grow from a single central stem.
Flavour: A sweeter than usual cauliflower taste.
Cooking: You can eat sweet sprouting cauliflower raw in salads or as crudités, blanched, mashed, pickled (a Japanese trend), stir-fried, steamed, roasted or barbequed, and it’s got a quick cooking time, especially as it suits al dente cooking. When cooked the stems turn to a brighter shade of green and it will store, raw and chilled, for up to a week.
Dishes: Chargrilled with Parmesan and lemon, spiced sweet sprouting cauliflower salad, roasted vegetable masala.
Foodie and chef fans: Chef and writer Sabrina Ghayour, editor of Healthy Food Guide magazine Melanie Leyshon, Neil Perry and cookbook author Annie Bell.
Health and nutrition: In addition to having properties that can prevent cancer, high blood pressure and heart disease, as well as anti-aging properties, sweet sprouting cauliflower is high in vitamin C, vitamin K, dietary fibre and potassium. Also low in cholesterol and saturated fats, it is a good source of fibre, and a great source of protein, thiamine and riboflavin, phosphorus and potassium.
A small serving, 100g, will supply 60-80% of the daily requirement of vitamin C and 10% of vitamin B6. Vitamin-C is a proven antioxidant that helps fight against harmful free radicals and boosts immunity preventing infections.
The next big thing: Miniature squash