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Natural Foods Merchandiser

April showers bring broccoli and cauliflowers?

Even though Mark Twain said, “Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education,” cauliflower remains one of the most popular vegetables in the U.S. Just look at how many ways your customers can eat it: raw in salad or on a crudité platter, steamed, roasted, mashed or even as a tasty soup.

It is as versatile as it tasty, but do your customers know that it is also an excellent source of vitamin C? I have to admit I didn’t. Maybe create a display with bell peppers, cauliflower, asparagus and bottles of OJ, along with a sign that reminds customers to reach for veggies when they are looking for vitamin C.

Twain was right about cauliflower being related to cabbage. It belongs to the same family of cruciferous vegetables that includes kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

These fantastic cruciferous vegetables may fight cancer. They contain isothiocyanates, (no, this isn’t a mythological Greek god) which neutralize the “poison” in cancer cells, and are being studied for their use in preventing breast cancer.

But that’s not all. The latest news shows broccoli can benefit men in other ways too: A recent University of Illinois study found that tomatoes and broccoli are better at shrinking prostate tumors when they’re eaten together than when eaten alone. Sort of a two-for-one deal, right?

Hey, that provides another merchandising idea: Build a basket out of broccoli on an ice table and fill it with fresh tomatoes. Just make sure you keep the tomatoes off the ice, as they don’t like to be chilled. Put up a recipe card using organic broccoli, cauliflower and tomatoes in a sauté to go over rice, or perhaps a pasta dish with tomatoes and roasted broccoli and peppers. Sound good? Put them all on sale and your customers will surely know that you are looking out for their budgets, health and taste buds.

If you want to make sure shoppers are selecting the best specimens, teach your workers to explain these simple rules: For cauliflower, look for white, firm, compact heads that are heavy for their size. How much should they buy? To serve four to six people, they’ll need a head that is 6 inches in diameter, which will weigh about 2 pounds. For broccoli, choose dark green bunches that are tight and stalks that are very firm.

And don’t throw those stems away! Peel ’em and cut them into small strips for customers to munch on while they are shopping. If they don’t like plain stalks, provide something for dipping, like your favorite organic salad dressing. See you around the cauliflower and broccoli displays.

Mark Mulcahy has 25 years of experience in the organic produce industry. Contact him at

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