Cauliflower leaves are excellent salad greens

Here’s a fun fact—the leaves that cradle a cauliflower head grow so big that farmers use them as built-in sun shades, tying them, ponytail-like, over the heads. Some cauliflower breeds don’t even need to be tied; the leaves simply grow around the head. Why all this concern about covering the bumpy heads? They need to be shielded from the sun, otherwise they risk turning an unappealing yellowish shade (and in certain cases they might develop purple splotches).

Normally the leaves are long trimmed away by the time you buy a cauliflower, but not so for this one, purchased by EatOrToss friends Stacy and Emily Cloyd at a farmers market. As Emily put it, "all of the cauliflowers came with jackets."

Determined not to let anything go to waste, the couple set out to use every square inch of their cozy cauliflower, starting with the leaves. Cauliflower leaves are edible with a taste and texture similar to kale.

We’ll be chronicling the kitchen adventures of Stacy and Emily's well-loved crucifer in several posts. First up, a salad with a poppyseed dressing, which Stacy described as a good mix of sweet and savory.

Cauliflower Leaf Salad with Creamy Dressing



¼ cup white wine vinegar. Or whatever vinegar you have on hand

¼ cup milk

¾ cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons poppyseeds. While we’re normally all about substitutions, poppyseeds are pretty essential to this recipe. Feel free to experiment without them, but if you don’t have them, Stacy suggests honey mustard or blue cheese dressings might be good alternatives.

2 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon dry mustard. If you don’t have dried mustard, use bottled mustard and add until you get a flavor you like.


Cauliflower leaves. Enough to fill a 4-quart bowl when chopped. More or less is fine too, but you’ll want to adjust the amount of dressing.

Dried cranberries. You can substitute dried cherries or another tart fruit if needed.

Sunflower seeds. Roasted pecans, almonds or another nut could also work.


1. Trim the leaves off the thick ribs. Set the ribs aside — you could pickle them or make them into a dip.

2. Stack the leaves and roll them in into “cigars.”

3. Position your knife perpendicular to the cigars and make narrow slices. This should net you some nice, thin ribbons of leaves. (Stacy compared her technique to a chiffonade.)

4. Stir, shake or whisk the dressing ingredients together.

5. Use your hands to massage the dressing into the leaves. This will soften them (the oil dissolves the waxy covering on the leaf, and the massaging damages cells just enough to make them more supple and less tough, as J. Kenji Lopez-Alt explains on Serious Eats)

6. Add the dried cranberries and sunflower seeds.

7. Play with the amount of dressing and additional dried cranberries and sunflower seeds until you get a ratio you like.

Enjoy the salad as a side dish or make it a meal by adding chickpea, chicken breast, eggs, or whatever protein sounds good to you. Stacy said it was also great with toast.

Check back for more on the culinary adventures with the Cloyds and the jacketed cauliflower!

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