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Selecting, Storing, and Serving Ohio Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, and Cauliflower

Family and Consumer Sciences
Revised 2021: Amy Meehan, Program Specialist, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension
Original reviewer: Lydia Medeiros, PhD, RD, Specialist, Ohio State University Extension
Original author: Barbara A. Brahm, Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension

Program Area: Home, Yard, and Garden Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower are among the closely related vegetables referred to as cole crops. Cole plants belong to the Cruciferae family, commonly known as the mustards or cabbage family.  Most of these plants have a central stalk or stem.

For information on broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower varieties in Ohio, contact your county educator in agriculture and natural resources at Ohio State University Extension, or a master gardener volunteer.


Select garden-fresh produce. 

Close up of broccoli with cauliflower in the background.

Figure 2. Cauliflower is a good source of vitamin K and C. Photo: Hans Braxmeier, Pixabay

  • Leaves and stems of broccoli heads should be dark green. Look for tender, young stalks that are firm with compact buds in the head. Yellow flowers in buds or very rough, bumpy heads may indicate broccoli is old and tough.
  • Brussels sprouts should be firm and green, not yellow. Each sprout should be compact and about 1-inch in diameter.
  • High-quality cauliflower is usually white or creamy white. A hint of green or purple is common and presents no danger or flavor problems. Heads should be clean, firm, and compact with fresh, green outer leaves. Small leaves extending through the head do not affect eating quality. Large or small heads that are mature are equally desirable. If the curds have the appearance of rice or look fuzzy the cauliflower is considered to be poor quality. Heads should be tight and smooth. A spotted, speckled, or bruised head should be avoided.


Due to many variables, including moisture content, size, and variety, it is difficult to give specific recommendations. The following recommendations are approximations.


  • 1 crate = 25 pounds
  • 1½ pounds = 4 servings

Brussels sprouts

  • 4-quart box = 6 pounds
  • 1½ pounds = 4 servings


  • 1 bushel = 25 pounds
  • 1 medium head (about 2 pounds) = 4 servings


The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 2½ cups of a variety of vegetables each day as part of a healthy diet.  Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower support better nutrition with a range of benefits:

  • Abundant antioxidants help prevent cancer and fight heart disease.
  • Broccoli and Brussels sprouts are excellent sources of vitamins A and C, potassium, folate, and fiber.
  • Cauliflower is a good source of vitamins K and C, folate, fiber, and potassium.
  • Brussels sprouts provide a good source of iron.
  • These vegetables are all low in calories. A cooked, 1-cup serving provides the following:  broccoli - 45 calories; Brussels sprouts – 60 calories; and cauliflower - 30 calories.


  • Remove leaves and blemishes before storing.
  • Wash just before using. To remove dirt, wash vegetables thoroughly in cold water. Do not use soap, detergent, or bleach because these liquids absorb into the vegetables.
  • To remove insects and worms, soak vegetables “head down” for 30 minutes in cold, salted water (add 1 teaspoon salt to each quart water). Lift the vegetables from the water to prevent redepositing of dirt and residues. Drain the water and rinse the vegetables several times. 


  • Broccoli - Break florets into uniform, 1-inch pieces. Peel the coarse stalks and split stalks larger than 1-inch in diameter or cut them into uniform pieces.
  • Brussels sprouts -Sort sprouts into small, medium, and large sizes. If cooking multiple sizes at one time, cut the sprouts into uniform pieces.
  • Cauliflower -Break florets into uniform pieces of about 1-inch. Remove any spotted, damaged pieces.
  • Because vitamin C is lost in water, consider steaming the vegetables or cooking them in small amounts of liquid until they are fork tender.  A general rule is ¼ cup liquid for each cup of vegetables.

Serving Ideas

  • Raw broccoli and cauliflower florets can be included on relish plates and in salads to add variety in color and texture. 
    Close up of cauliflower florets.

    Figure 2. Cauliflower is a good source of vitamin K and C. Photo: Hans Braxmeier, Pixabay

  • For cooked vegetables, season with lemon butter by combining 1 tablespoon lemon juice with 1 tablespoon of melted butter or margarine. Pour the mixture over broccoli, Brussels sprouts, or cauliflower just before serving. Or sprinkle the vegetables with 1–2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  • For a colorful cooked vegetable, combine broccoli and cauliflower florets with carrot coins. Cook until tender crisp and season to taste.
  • A popular new use for broccoli and cauliflower is ricing. The vegetables, when grated or shredded, serve as a nutrient-dense, grain-free alternative to rice (see Cauliflower Rice recipe below).
  • Cooking with herbs
    • Broccoli – cook with basil, caraway seed, curry powder, dill, mustard seed, nutmeg, oregano, or tarragon.
    • Brussels sprouts – cook with basil, caraway seed, cumin, curry powder, dill, garlic salt, marjoram, mustard seed, nutmeg, sage, savory, or thyme.
    • Cauliflower – cook with basil, caraway seed, celery salt, curry powder, dill, mace, nutmeg, parsley flakes, poppy seed, rosemary, or tarragon.

Cauliflower Rice:

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 15 minutes


  • Cooking spray
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoons black pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped, fresh parsley or 2 teaspoons dried parsley

Cooking Instructions

  1. Cut the cauliflower into florets. Add cauliflower in batches into the food processor (or blender) and gently pulse until cauliflower becomes the texture of rice. Be careful not to over-pulse.
  2. Coat a large skillet with cooking spray and add cauliflower, salt, and pepper. Sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes until cauliflower is tender, stirring occasionally.
  3. Top with chopped parsley.

For information on preserving broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower, go to or contact your local Ohio State University Extension office for the following fact sheet:


The American Heart Association. n.d. “Cauliflower Rice.” Recipes. Accessed July 15, 2021.

National Center for Home Food Preservation. n.d. University of Georgia, College of Family and Consumer Sciences (website). Accessed July 15, 2021.

University of Illinois Extension. n.d. “Broccoli.” Watch Your Garden Grow. Accessed July 15, 2021.

University of Illinois Extension. n.d. “Brussels Sprouts.” Watch Your Garden Grow. Accessed July 15, 2021.

University of Illinois Extension. n.d. “Cauliflower.” Watch Your Garden Grow. Accessed July 15, 2021.

University of Arkansas. Vegetable Weights Per Bushel. Little Rock: University of Arkansas System, Division of Agriculture, 2013. PDF.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. n.d. “My Plate, U.S. Department of Agriculture.” Vegetables. Accessed July 15, 2021.


Originally posted Jul 19, 2021.