Revised, May, 2015
Linda Naeve, Iowa State University Extension
Cauliflower belongs to the same plant family as cabbage, broccoli, kale, bok choy and Brussels sprouts. Consumption of cauliflower in the United States was approximately 1.5 pounds of fresh and .4 pounds of frozen per person (ERS, Yearbook 2014). Over the past 10 years, consumption has declined 17 percent.
Cauliflower is a highly nutritious vegetable, ranking among the top 10 foods in regards to ANDI score (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index), which measures vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient content in relation to caloric content. It is low in calories and an excellent source of vitamin C and fiber, as well as provides two core conventional antioxidants.
California is the major cauliflower-producing state in the United States, with about 90 percent of the supply. Arizona is second, followed by New York, Washington, and Texas. Over 98 percent of the cauliflower produced in 2013 was sold for fresh market. Nearly 42 percent of the fresh market cauliflower produced in the U.S in 2013 was exported, almost 40% more than was exported in 2000. In 2014, 11 percent of fresh cauliflower consumed in the U.S. was imported.
Cauliflower is a cool-season crop requiring more exacting temperature for quality production than its relatives. The optimal temperature range for cauliflower is between 65 and 68o F. It is extremely sensitive to unfavorable conditions, such as unusually hot weather, drought or too low temperature, which often result in the formation of premature heads or curds. Cauliflower must be “blanched” in which the outer leaves are tied to protect the curd. A good yield would be 7 to 9 tons per acre with heads averaging 2 to 3 pounds. The number of U.S. farms producing cauliflower has increased 6 percent in the last five years. This is due, in part, to an increase in the number of small farms of less than 5 acres producing cauliflower. U.S. cauliflower production for fresh market was 628.4 million pounds in 2013 and 9.0 million pounds for freezing.
The 2013 season average price for fresh cauliflower in the U.S. was $44.60 per cwt. The current, on-going drought in California is likely to have a major impact on the state’s production with potential implications on U.S. supplies and prices now and in the future.
Based on most recent production and price averages, the estimated gross value per acre is $5,940 (Cauliflower Production in California, 2009). The costs of production of cauliflower vary depending on the production location, weather, and other factors. It is particularly labor-intensive with hand-labor needed for blanching, harvest and post-harvest handling and packaging.
National Retail Report: Fruits and Vegetables: Weekly Advertised Prices for Fruits and Vegetables at Major Retail Supermarket Outlets
USDA ERS: Vegetable and Pulses Data Yearbook 2014
California Drought: Farm and Food Impacts
Cauliflower Production in California
2012 USDA Census of Agriculture
USDA ERS: Vegetables and Pulses Yearbook Data, March 2015