Colorful cauliflowers are all the rage on supermarket shelves – and the palette is set to expand


Dietitians are urging Australians to adopt a ‘rainbow’ diet to improve nutrition, and colorful new breeds of vegetables are becoming available to make it easier.

Fresh Select grows purple cauliflower in the Werribee Food Bowl, 30 kilometers southwest of Melbourne’s CBD.

Managing Director John Said thinks consumers want to try something different, and supermarkets recognize that different colors would attract sales.

“Everyone is looking for this different product, and the rainbow is one way to start,” he said.

“Breeders around the world have seen it as a new process, but now it is becoming mainstream.”

Eat the Rainbow

Dietitian Simone Austin said that eating a variety of colors increases the amount of nutrients the human body can absorb.

“All the colors of the vegetables, but especially the purples and dark greens, show that they contain a lot of antioxidants and that the antioxidants are especially good for us,” she said.

Antioxidants are substances that can prevent or slow down damage to cells by the body that processes food and responds to the environment.

Purple cauliflowers are said to have a milder flavor than white varieties.(Provided: Fresh Select)

“But don’t just buy all the purple foods, we want to eat a rainbow.”

Ms Austin said there were thousands of different types of antioxidants found in different colored fruits and vegetables that played different roles.

“By having a good variety, you will also get more fiber and different types of fiber,” she said.

“If we can make the veggies look good to begin with, we’re a lot more likely to eat more of them and it’s good for everyone.”

A box of fruits and vegetables, including celery, tomatoes, apples, oranges, pumpkin, carrots and potatoes
Simone Austin says it’s important to eat a “rainbow” of fruits and vegetables.(ABC Central West: Luke Wong)

Growing popularity

Mr Said says the success of the purple vegetable has allowed the company to expand into trials with green and orange varieties.

“The purple color gives the vegetable a depth of flavor, and certainly the orange cauliflower which has a definite taste.

“It has a bit of that carrot flavor, and the green cauliflower is really nutty, so they all taste slightly different.”

Orange cauliflower
Orange cauliflowers are currently being tested in Werribee.(ABC Rural: Jane McNaughton)

Mr. Said noted that the different colors were from the selection of cauliflower with other vegetables.

“Anthocyanins (water soluble vacuolar pigments) are purple and have traditionally been a color in vegetables for many years,” he said.

“There isn’t much you can do to isolate this color… it’s 100% natural genetics.”

“The orange cauliflower was crossed with carrot, they were able to stabilize it to get that orange color, and with the green (the breeders) removed a dash from the broccoli.”

A man harvesting a cauliflower
John Said says purple cauliflowers can be grown year round.(Provided: Fresh Select)

Mr Said says the company is trying to extend the growing season for green and orange cauliflowers, before they hit supermarket shelves.

“We’ll just keep trying to find new varieties that will extend this season.”

Bold and beautiful

Having bright and colorful foods can also encourage children to be more adventurous with their diets, Ms. Austin said.

“It’s fun for kids to grow things for them,” she said.

“Getting kids at an early age to start smelling their vegetables, to smell them – it’s all about textures and making them like different foods.

A bee flies around a flower
The bright colors of the crops help attract bees as well as butterflies.(ABC: Jennifer Douglas)

The color purple helps protect plants from environmental damage, said Austin.

“Much like the way flowers attract them, this beautiful, rich purple color also tends to attract pollinators to vegetable plants.”

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