Revised, October 2017
Linda Naeve, Iowa State University Extension
Cauliflower belongs to the same plant family as cabbage, broccoli, kale, bok choy and Brussels sprouts. Annual consumption of cauliflower in the United States in 2016 was approximately 1.7 pounds of fresh and .4 pounds of frozen per person ( USDA ERS, 2017). Over the past 10 years, consumption has declined 5 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. Over 98 percent of the cauliflower produced in 2013 was sold for fresh market. The value of the utilized production in 2016 was estimated at $389.49 million. Nearly 42 percent of the fresh market cauliflower produced in the U.S in 2016 was exported and 11 percent of fresh cauliflower consumed in the U.S. was imported. (USDA NASS 2017).
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 was produced on approximately 37,000 acres in 2016 and the number of U.S. farms producing cauliflower has increased 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. The average yield in 2016 was approximately 18,000 pounds per acre. In 2016, total U.S. cauliflower production was 666.1 million pounds. Cauliflower exports were approximately 273 million pounds.
The 2016 season average price for fresh cauliflower in the U.S. was $58.50 per cwt.
Based on most recent production and price averages, the estimated gross value per acre is $10,540. 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 2016
Cauliflower Production in California
2012 USDA Census of Agriculture
USDA NASS: Vegetables 2016 Summary