Recently more and more of the colored cauliflowers have started showing up at the farmers' market so the CC started doing some research on them. They are genetically-modified cauliflowers.
The CC is not afraid of the genetic modification because it has been going on forever. The "organic granolas" put scare-quotes around the "genetic" part but it's part of our legacy. We've been doing this since the birth of agriculture. Cross-breeding to get sweeter varieties or more hardy ones or ones that are more resistant to various pests and fungi.
Carrots were not originally "orange". They were cultivated specifically to appeal to the Dutch House of Orange and in return they became the "Royal Vegetable". They were also markedly sweeter which explains why they became the dominant variety.
The story of the colored cauliflowers is as varied as their colors:
The orange cauliflower was a genetic mutant first found in Canada in 1970. It was crossbred using conventional cross-breeding techniques at Cornell University until it now finds its way into the mainstream. The orange comes from beta-carotene — the same compound that gives carrots its characteristic color and which is absolutely necessary for humans to produce Vitamin A.
The purple cauliflower was a similar mutant found in Denmark in the 1980's. Same idea of cross-breeding. The purple comes from anthocyanins (also found in raspberries, blueberries, grapes, red wine, olives.) They are water soluble so if you want to preserve the color, you will need to gently roast it not boil it or steam it. It has a very characteristic smell when you cut into it and it's a lot milder in flavor than the others.
The green one is a cross-breed between broccoli and cauliflower. There is also the Romanesco cauliflower but that's a different breed.
A classic recipe is presented for your benefit.
Pasta with Cauliflower, Anchovies, Raisins, Pine Nuts & Saffron
2 cups rigatoni (or penne.)
1 head cauliflower (separated into medium-sized florets)
1 large red onion (chopped)
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup raisins
6 anchovies (preferably salt-cured)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp saffron
1/3 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
Toast the breadcrumbs and set aside. Toast the pine nuts until golden. Be careful not to burn them. Set aside.
Heat an oven to 400°F and roast the cauliflower florets for 15 minutes.
Heat the olive oil at medium heat. When shimmering, add the onions and fry for a further 7-9 minutes. Add the tomato paste, and the anchovies and fry. The anchovies will "dissolve" as they fry. Add a cup of water, the raisins, sea salt, and black pepper, and let cook at low heat.
Meanwhile make the pasta until al dente. Drain.
The cauliflower mixture should be just slightly on the wet side. If dry, add some more water.
Toss in the saffron, cauliflowers and the pasta, and mix thoroughly.
Serve with the parmesan and roasted breadcrumbs on top with extra black pepper to taste.