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Green Growing Tips For How To Start A Community Garden

Imagine a place where people from all backgrounds work together to plant and grow food or flowers. After all the work, they happily share in the harvest, even donating the surplus to benefit others in their community. It’s happening all over the nation, and if you love the idea, you can easily become part of the trend. But first, you need to learn how to start a community garden.

Do you live in an area where fresh fruits and vegetables are in short supply? If so, learning how to start a community garden could change everything.

What Is a Community Garden?

A community garden is a place where people come together to grow food or flowers and then share in the harvest. These gardens can span an entire block or make use of a tiny plot of a forgotten land.

When learning how to start a community garden, you will see that anyone can start one. For instance, some cities or municipalities start community gardens in areas where fresh produce is hard to find. Also, churches, non-profit organizations, schools, or even a group of neighbors can learn how to start a community garden.

​You have two choices when learning how to start a community garden. You can create a large garden where everyone shares in the work and harvest, or you can subdivide the garden into individual plots. When subdividing the garden, each member will “own” their plot of land and grow their own produce.

The Benefits of Learning How to Start a Community Garden

A child carrying a basket while walking in the garden

​Image Source: Unsplash

Aside from the fact that you will grow your own food and beautiful flowers (or both!), you and the other participants will reap many great benefits from the garden.

Here are a few benefits you’ll get when learning how to start a community garden.

Check them out:

It classes up the joint

Let’s face it:

No one wants to look at an abandoned plot of land for years on end. Yet, that’s what’s happening in neighborhoods all across the nation. But when you learn how to start a community garden, you can transform that ugly plot of land into a lush, green garden that is overflowing with produce and flowers.

In other words, you can make your neighborhood beautiful by turning the unsightly plot into a green haven.

Put food on the table

Many people live in food deserts. These are areas where it’s difficult to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. Instead, its residents live largely on fast food and packaged food.

And that’s not good for anyone.

But when you learn how to start a community garden, you will bring fresh produce to the community. And if you start a community garden in an impoverished area, it can supply the much-needed produce to people who may not otherwise be able to afford it.

It gets them off the sofa

​Working outside in the fresh air is good for you, and the people who work in community gardens get plenty of exercise and sunshine. There is something about planting, tending to, and then enjoying the fruits of your labor that causes people to unwind and destress.

Give it back

Guess what else is great:

After learning how to start a community garden, you will quickly realize just how important it is to the community. And that’s another huge benefit of starting this type of garden.

You will get to watch neighbors working together who may have never met. Kids who typically spend their day inside watching television or playing video games will spend time soaking up the sunshine and helping grow their next meal.

When you give back to the community, you not only make it a better place, but you get the satisfaction of having done something that’s outside of yourself.

Teach them

Not everyone understands the importance of proper nutrition in a diet. But when you get people involved in a community garden, you can teach them how vital fresh fruits and vegetables are to a healthy diet.

And all those kids who say they hate vegetables? Hand them a tomato fresh off the vine and watch as their perceptions instantly change.

Who Uses Community Gardens?

Anyone can use a community garden. Neighbors who live in a food desert can use them, as can people who live in upscale neighborhoods. Church members can plant a garden together, or a local club can learn how to start a community garden and grow one together.

And, that's not all:

People from all socio-economics can get together and learn how to start a community garden.

Wow, this sounds like an amazing activity, doesn’t it?

Let’s move on and learn how to start a community garden, shall we?

How to Start a Community Garden

If you love the idea of getting people together and doing something good for the community, starting a community garden is probably right for you. But before you just jump in, let’s talk about a proven plan that helps you do it the right way.

Here is a step-by-step plan that will teach you how to start a community garden.

Connect with your mirror image

Your first step in the process is to find a group of like-minded people who also want to learn how to start a community garden. You can find these people almost anywhere.

For instance, you can place an ad in the local newspaper, post a bulletin at the local grocery store, or start a Facebook or Instagram page about the project. Another option is to walk your neighborhood and talk to the people who live there. If you live in an apartment complex, be sure to talk to all the tenants and even the building supervisor.

Once you’ve spoken to everyone and found people who are interested in learning how to start a community garden, set a meeting date to make it official.

To be successful, you need to gather as many people as you can and talk to them about your idea. And remember, it takes a group of dedicated people to start a garden, so if you don’t find people who are interested in the idea, it might be time to expand the reach to people outside of your neighborhood.

Bring in the planners

Anytime you start a project as big as a community garden, you need to create some concrete plans. If you approach the job willy-nilly, you may not see the success you’d hoped for.

To create these plans, you should form a planning committee that agrees to act in the best interests of the garden and the people who will benefit from it. The members of the committee should be organized and dedicated to the cause. They will plan for events such as the construction of the garden, funding, garden activities, and the formation of a communications plan.

Another great idea is:

Assign each committee member a task based on their area of expertise or talent. For instance, if someone on the committee is a great communicator, put them in charge of communicating the work schedules and other events to the garden members. And if another person is great with money, make them the treasurer for the project.

Group effort or solo?

With the help of your planning committee, it’s time to decide whether you will create a large garden that everyone works and then shares in the harvest or a garden design that encourages individualism.

In a group garden, you will decide as a group what to plant and form work committees, so everyone shares in the group. But when you subdivide the plots, each person will decide what to grow and do all of the work themselves.

There are pros and cons to each type of garden. A group garden is more work because you will have to coordinate every aspect of it and then communicate those plans to everyone involved. You will also have to ensure that everyone does their part and doesn’t take more than their share during harvest time.

On the other hand, when you divide the plot of land into individual garden spaces, your job is to make sure everyone follows the rules and doesn’t do anything that harms another person’s garden. For instance, if someone plants corn or another tall vegetable in their plot, it could block the sun from another person’s garden.

That’s why you have to create a set of rules for your garden.

But we’ll get to that in a minute.

Pick your plants

Hand holding three types of plants

​Image Source: Unsplash

When learning how to start a community garden, you will need to think about what to grow in your garden. Most community gardens grow vegetables to help feed those in the community. But a few gardens grow flowers to bring beauty to the neighborhood — and to the tables of those who help grow them.

But if you can’t decide between the two, why not grow both produce and flowers? You could use the interior of the plot to grow your vegetables and fruit and then border the garden with fresh flowers that the community can pick and display in their homes.

Remember this:

Another consideration is whether you will grow an organic or conventional garden. People will probably have different opinions on this topic so you may have to take a poll if you’re growing a group garden.

If you decide on subdivided plots, be sure to put people growing organically in one area of the garden and those who aren’t in another area. That way the organic produce won’t become tainted with pesticides from neighboring gardeners.

What can we use?

Now that you have an overall idea of what your garden will look like, who will participate, and what you will grow, it’s time to think about gathering all the resources you have to help get the job done.

This is where an organized and committed planning committee comes in handy.

Start by calling a meeting and then asking everyone to brainstorm about what resources they know of that you could use for the garden. For example, someone may have a pile of mulch they no longer need, while others could offer to lend you their garden tools.

And don’t forget about human resources. A member of the committee may know someone in the city who is in charge of community garden grants. That’s a definite resource.

Make a list and document it. These are the items you won’t have to spend money to get your garden started.

Count your money

To create a beautiful and productive garden you picture in your mind, you will need some money. After all, you need to buy seeds, mulch, manure or hummus, tomato cages, fertilizers, pesticides, and many other things to effectively grow the produce and flowers.

To fund your garden, you have a few options, and it all depends on which type of garden plan you will use. To learn how to start a community garden where the plot is subdivided into individual plots, your finances will look a little different.

Take this for example:

Many people who start gardens like this charge growers a nominal fee for each growing season. Someone who purchases one garden plot may pay $30 to use it for the season. Charging these types of fees allow people access to their own land to grow their food, and at the same time, gives you immediate resources to make improvements to the overall plot.

Help a grower out

If your plan is to grow one big garden and have everyone work together, it’s a smart idea to look for sponsors to help pay the expenses. For instance, you could go to the local gardening club and ask them to sponsor your garden. In exchange for calling them a sponsor, they would provide some much-needed cash, tools, seeds, or other items you may need.

You can also approach local businesses, and offer them the opportunity to hang a sign on the garden fence that advertises their business in exchange for their sponsorship.

Look to the government

Some cities offer funding for people who want to learn how to start a community garden. These grants offer cash payouts to help people buy the things they need to get their garden going. The federal Community Development Block Program gives money to local states and cities, and they offer grants to people starting community gardens.

Talk to your local municipality to determine whether or not they participate in this federal funding program. Even if they don’t, they may have local community garden grants you can apply for.

Calling all donors

Another way to raise money for your community garden is to hold a fundraising event. When you can get people excited about your project and the good it will do, many will want to help. And the best way they can do that is to donate money or goods to your project.

Get inventive when it comes to fundraising. Don’t just tell people about your project, but make it fun for them to donate to it. For example, one person sold square inches of their community garden for $5. Hundreds of people lined up to buy a square inch, and the person raised enough money to launch the garden.

And here's the truth:

The reason this fundraising event was so successful is that it was fun, got people involved, and made donors feel like they were part of the building process.

You can also use group fundraising sites to raise funds for your garden. The possibilities are endless. Just imagine what it would take to get the attention of donors and do it!

How to Pick the Spot for Your Community Garden

Now that you’ve planned your garden and raised the funds, it’s time to select a spot for your garden. People plant community gardens just about everywhere. Some people ask the city for permission to use abandoned city lots, while others plant gardens alongside roadways or behind shopping malls.

The key is to get permission to plant your garden before doing it. Some cities even allow people to grow community gardens in parks and schools.

And you can ask private landowners to use their land for a garden, too. For example, someone may own a few acres of land but only use a portion of it. They may be open to allowing you to plant a community garden on the unused portion of that land.

Wherever you decide to plant your garden, you need to think about a few things.

The first is liability insurance. If a member of the gardening team gets injured while tending to the garden, the landowner could be held responsible. That’s why many people will only allow you to use their land if you agree to get liability insurance.

Also, you need to look for a plot of land that gets at least six hours of sunlight a day in order to grow vegetables. And you will need a water source to water your garden. Working out how to pay the water bill should also be on your list of things to do.

Dig baby dig

Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and prepare your land for a garden. In order to reap the best harvest, you should plan your garden so that it grows beautifully and gracefully together.

Start by getting together your planning committee and coming up with a design for the garden. You should do this whether you plan a group garden or individual plots.

After you’ve created the plan, organize all of the volunteers, and begin tilling the ground. You should use a soil tester to determine whether or not you need to add amendments to it. Also, if you plan to use raised beds, now is the time to build them.

And if your garden plot doesn’t already have a fence surrounding it, it might be a good idea to build one.

Make a Rulebook

crop hand checking a checklist

​Image Source: Pixabay

You want everyone to get along, and the best way to ensure that happens is by creating a set of rules that everyone follows. When there is a disagreement between gardeners, it’s easy to point to the rules to quickly settle the dispute.

Here are some of the types of rules you can create for your community garden:

  • ​Let each gardener know they are responsible for their individual plots
  • ​Follow the schedule for tools and water usage
  • ​Lock gate when finished gardening
  • ​Supervise children at all times
  • ​All gardeners must execute a release of claims before beginning work in the garden
  • ​Make other arrangements if gardener can't come once a week or privileges will be revoked
  • ​Establish rules about pesticides
  • ​Create a lottery system to assign individual plots to keep things fair
  • ​If you charge plot fees, make them due before the planting season begins
  • ​Individual gardeners may only harvest produce from their own lots
  • ​Group gardeners will divide up the produce according to a system you design
  • ​At the end of the season, all gardeners are responsible for cleaning up the land and making it ready for next season

How to Divide the Produce

a basket full of veggies

​Image Source: Pixabay

If you decide to start a community garden with individual plots, it’s easy to divide the produce because people will take home what they grow.

But what if the garden is communal?

You have a few options when it comes to dividing the spoils in a group garden. For example, you can assign each gardener a percentage based on the number of hours they worked. Or, you could assign a percentage based on the number of people in their family.

Help the community with the extra produce

If you’re lucky enough to have excess produce, don’t throw it away or convince gardeners to take home more than they can eat. Instead, talk to your local food bank, churches, or other organization that helps feed the hungry. These types of charities always welcome extra food so they can pass it along to those in need.

What to Plant

a garden

​Image Source: Unsplash

What you plant in your community garden will depend on where you live. That’s because every area is able to grow different fruits and vegetables, and the weather and climate have everything to do with it.

For example, you can grow a lot of produce almost year round in the south, but when winter arrives in the north, people cover up their gardens and wait for spring.

Talk to gardeners in your area to determine which types of crops are easiest to grow. In the meantime, here are some commonly grown crops for community gardens.

  • ​Tomatoes
  • ​Lettuce
  • ​Cabbage
  • ​Beets
  • ​Eggplant
  • ​Kale
  • ​Garlic
  • ​Tomatoes
  • ​Lettuce
  • ​Cabbage
  • ​Beets
  • ​Eggplant
  • ​Kale
  • ​Garlic

Community Garden Maintenance

To make the most of your garden, you will need to ensure that you perform maintenance to keep it producing all those wonderful fruits and vegetables.

Here’s a list of some simple maintenance duties that will keep your garden growing.

  • ​Someone needs to water the garden routinely
  • ​If not pulled, weeds can quickly overtake the garden
  • ​Paths need to stay mulched and free of objects that could cause people to trip and fall
  • ​Tools should be cared for and replaced when broken
  • ​If grass surrounds the garden, it needs to be mowed and trimmed

How to Divide up the Work

​Image Source: Unsplash

When operating a group or communal garden, you will need to organize the volunteers in a way that allows everyone the opportunity to participate. You should make the rules known from the beginning: Those who don’t work don’t get to share in the harvest. After all, shouldn't the people who worked hard to grow the food get to enjoy it?

The members of the planning committee can help with this task. Look for a member who is organized and likes dealing with people. Then ask them to create a work schedule and then communicate with the volunteers to determine the best work hours for each one.

Here's an idea:

Create a schedule and post it online and at the garden site. Remember to include language about what happens when a volunteer doesn’t show up or stops working in the rulebook.

Community gardens work because it’s a group effort. When everyone does their part, it creates a sense of community and goodwill. But if someone begins to take advantage of the others, it can quickly dampen everyone’s spirits.

How to Start a Community Garden: All That’s Left Is to Start!

Are you glad you learned how to start a community garden? These gardens are popping up all over the nation and giving people hope and a sense of accomplishment and community. Are you the right person to start a community garden?

Maybe you’ve already learned how to start a community garden but haven’t taken the first step yet. Tell us what’s holding you back in the comments below. Who knows? Maybe another reader has just the motivation you need!

​Featured Image Source: Unsplash

What Is a Dutch Oven? How It Works and 4 Tasty Treats to Make

image showing what is a dutch oven and how it looks

Image from Amazon

If you enjoy creating delicious dishes in the kitchen, you probably have an interest in different contraptions that can help you do this. One of these contraptions is a Dutch oven. If you’re not familiar with these, you might wonder: What is a Dutch oven?

What Is a Dutch Oven?



Utopia Kitchen Pre Seasoned Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Image from Amazon

A Dutch oven can be an integral part of your kitchen. You may still be wondering though, what is a Dutch oven?

Simply put, a Dutch oven is a heavy cooking pot that has a tightly fitting lid. It’s good for a variety of purposes, including braising, making soups and stews, and making a variety of sweet treats.

If you want to know how a Dutch oven works, you should just start by thinking of your conventional oven at home. It’s self-contained, and whatever you put in there will be surrounded by heat on all sides.

A Dutch oven works similarly to a regular oven. The bottom, top, and sides of the Dutch oven all radiate heat inward at once. This allows the oven to cook the food inside from all directions at equal temperatures.

So, again, what is a Dutch oven? It’s a pot that acts a lot like a small, self-contained oven.

Typically, a Dutch oven is made from cast iron. You can use it either on the stovetop or in the oven. If it’s made of cast iron, you need to season it before using it, just like you need to do with any cast iron cookware.

Crock Pot Artisan 7QT Oval Dutch Oven

Image from Amazon

Cast iron Dutch ovens can withstand very high levels of heat. This makes them good tools that you can use for deep frying.

Manufacturers design Dutch ovens for both indoor and outdoor use. The indoor ones don’t have legs, so you can effectively put it right over a burning stove. Outdoor Dutch ovens have legs, which help when you’re using them for cooking over an open fire.

Things You Can Do with a Dutch Oven



You now know a little bit more about the answer to the question: What is a Dutch oven? Now that you have this information, you might want to know how you can use one. There are many uses for a Dutch oven.

Since most of them are cast iron, they are poor conductors of heat. That means it takes them a long time to heat up, but they retain their heat for a long time once they’re hot.

So, what is a Dutch oven? An answer to this question wouldn’t be complete without letting you know everything that a Dutch oven can do, which is more than you probably think.

Crock Pot Artisan 7QT Oval Dutch Oven, Blue

Image from Amazon

Cooking a stew

Baking bread?

Need a skillet?

In the mood for a roast?

Cook two things at once!



Four Tasty Treats You Can Make with a Dutch Oven

AmazonBasics Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Dutch Oven Pot

Image from Amazon

Initially, you were wondering, what is a Dutch oven? Now, you know that it has a plethora of different uses. And we have a few tasty treats that you can make in your Dutch oven very easily.

1. No-knead bread


This recipe is simple, even if you’re not an experienced baker. You only need a few ingredients.

These include:

  • 3 cups of all-purpose flour (plus a little more flour for shaping later)
  • 1 teaspoon of active dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons of sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups of warm water

To start, just whisk the flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl until it’s mixed well. Pour in the warm water, and stir everything with a wooden spoon until you get a sticky dough. Then, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap end set it aside in a warm area for 8 to 18 hours so that the dough can rise.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, and put your Dutch oven with the cover into the oven 30 minutes before you start baking.

Now, punch down the dough. Cover a sheet of parchment paper with flour, put the dough on the parchment paper, and quickly shape it into a ball. Let it sit for 30 minutes, and then put it into the Dutch oven.

Let the Dutch oven sit in your oven for 45 minutes covered, and then another 10 or 15 minutes uncovered. Your bread should be ready now.

2. Homemade applesauce


This applesauce is pretty easy to make as well. You’ll need:

  • 6 to 8 Granny Smith apples
  • 6 to 8 sweet red apples
  • 1 juiced and zested lemon
  • 2 juiced and zested large navel oranges
  • 1/2 cup of packed light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, put the juice and zest of the lemon and oranges into a large bowl. Peel the apples, remove the cores, and slice them up into the juice.

Put the mixture, along with the rest of the ingredients, into the Dutch oven. Bake everything for about 90 minutes. Then, mix it with a whisk until the mixture is smooth.

You can serve it either warm or at room temperature.

3. Fruit cobbler


You can make any kind of cobbler you want using a Dutch oven. All you need is:

  • 4 cups of the fruit of your choice
  • 1/2 box of vanilla cake mix
  • 1 cup of lemon-lime soda
  • 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter

Also, you should preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the cake mix and lemon-lime soda in a medium bowl. Put your fruit in the Dutch oven, and spoon the cake mix batter over the top. Then, top it with bits of butter and sugar.

If the Dutch oven was already at 350 degrees, it should take about 30 minutes to cook this cobbler. You should check on it about every 10 minutes. It’s done when the topping is golden brown, and you see the fruit juices bubbling.

4. Raspberry rose jam


For this recipe, you’ll need:

  • 2 pounds of raspberries
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of rosewater
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice

Begin by tossing the sugar and raspberries into your Dutch oven, and let it sit until the raspberries begin to release their juices, which should take about 20 to 30 minutes.

Start heating your Dutch oven on medium heat above your stove top. Start stirring occasionally, and then, as the mixture starts to get thicker, stir it more often to prevent the jam from scorching. Do this until most of the liquid evaporates, and the mixture is thick, which should take about 30 to 40 minutes.

Take the mixture away from the heat source, and then stir in the rosewater and lemon juice. Now, you can put it into jars or whatever container you wish.

Now We’re Cooking!



As you can see, a Dutch oven is much more useful and versatile than most people know. You probably got much more than you bargained for when you first pondered the question: What is a Dutch oven?

A Dutch oven is great for all sorts of culinary projects that you might have in mind. You can use it to make a stew, a daily breakfast, or even make bread. Because of its properties, it’s ideal for anyone who wants to let something cook for several hours while you do something else.

If you have an interest in using a Dutch oven yourself, there’s no time like the present. You can make all the tasty treats we mentioned above with minimal effort.

What do you think about a Dutch oven? Have you ever used one? Feel free to let us know in the comments section!

Should You Switch to Ceramic Cookware? Find Out Here.

If you’ve been a part of the organic living community for a while, you’ve probably heard of ceramic cookware. When we think of healthy cooking, we’re often just thinking of the ingredients we use and the places they originate. But the cookware we’re using could be having adverse effects on our and our loved ones’ health.

Again and again, tests have shown that common cookware materials can introduce trace metals and toxins into our food. What’s the point of sourcing healthy, organic foods if the very things we cook them in are hazardous? If this is something you’re concerned about in your kitchen, ceramic cookware could be the solution you’re looking for.

What is Ceramic Cookware?

Cookware is pretty much anything you prepare food in, especially over a heat source. Pots, pans, skillets, and other kitchen essentials are all considered cookware. The term “ceramic cookware” encompasses two distinct types: solid clay and ceramic-enameled.

True ceramic cookware is made from 100-percent solid clay and baked in a kiln, followed by a glazing process. These items are not all boring and brown. In fact, the glaze allows for all kinds of gorgeous colors and designs that will match any kitchen decor.

Ceramic-enameled cookware often uses a base of aluminum or other common metal. Only the very top layer is actually ceramic. While there are benefits to ceramic-enameled pots and pans over their non-coated metal counterparts, the reality is that this cookware can still carry some health risks. For this reason, we recommend solid ceramic cookware.

The Potential Hazards Hiding in Your Kitchen

While we recommend ceramic cookware for all organic cooking, you should be aware of the potential risks associated with the cookware that might currently be in your kitchen. Different metals and materials carry different risks, and these risks become more or less severe depending on how you use the cookware.

Although metals are the most common culprits of chemical leaching, plastic and glass cookware can also be hazardous to your family’s health. Educating yourself on the potential risks of these items is the best way to keep your family safe and healthy.

Non-stick

Image by pixabay

Many people are aware of the health risks linked to non-stick cookware. But pots and pans coated with Teflon, the brand name for the most common non-stick coating, are still in household kitchens around the world.

While Teflon itself is not linked to cancer, a chemical used in the making of Teflon is. Perfluorooctanoic Acid, commonly referred to as PFOA, triggers an increase in the rate of tumors for both lab animals and humans exposed to the chemical. Tests sometimes find trace amounts of residual PFOA in Teflon, and once it enters the human body, it remains there for a very long time.

Heated Teflon can trigger flu-like symptoms in some people, called polymer fume fever. This isn't a potential issue when using non-stick pots and pans as intended. However, leaving non-stick cookware on a stove for too long or at too high of a temperature can release these harmful fumes.

Cast iron

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A cast iron pan's best trait is also a potential disadvantage. Cast iron cookware leaches iron into the food cooked within, which is great for those who are anemic or not getting the daily recommended amount of dietary iron. But for those who get enough or too much iron in their diet, this leaching could be dangerous.

Some individuals with metabolic disorders like hemochromatosis can undergo harm from this extra dietary iron. Excess iron in the body can also increase free radical formation and increase the risk of heart disease. If you or a loved one is at risk for any of these conditions, it’s best to avoid cooking with cast iron altogether.

Stainless steel

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Like cast iron, stainless steel cookware adds small amounts of iron to cooked food. But it can also leach the metals chromium and nickel. Similar to iron, chromium is beneficial in small amounts and harmful if we ingest too much. While nickel is technically safe for the human body, those who have a nickel allergy could experience symptoms if they ingest too much of this metal.

Not all stainless steel is equal, though. Magnetic stainless steel, versus non-magnetic, has little to no nickel and therefore poses little risk of toxic metal leaching. Testing your stainless steel cookware is simple, all you need is a magnet. If the magnet is attracted to your stainless steel cookware, it's the safer variety. If not, it might be time to invest in some new kitchen items.

Plastic

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You might not think of plastic as cookware, but how many times have you placed warm or hot food into a plastic container for storage? Or even microwaved something in a plastic container? The reality is that warm plastic can leach chemicals into our food very easily. This is especially true when the food in question is high in acidity, sodium, or fat.

Plastics can contain and therefore contaminate your food with three hazardous materials. Endocrine disruptors, the most well-known of which is BPA, can interact with our bodies and prevent hormone production from properly functioning. Monomers are also present in some plastics and are linked to cancerous growths. And, like metal pots and pans, plastic cookware can leach toxic metals into our food.

Glass

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Glassware has some obvious physical hazards, like the risk of shattering or exploding. You should use care and avoid dramatic changes in temperature when cooking with glass. But this cookware can also cause damage to our bodies from the inside.

While responsibly manufactured glass cookware is actually very safe to use, some items can contain unsafe levels of lead and chemical pigments. Older glass items may pose a risk to your family's health, as these items were not subject to the same safety standards as today's cookware. All things considered, though, most glass cookware is equally or almost as safe as ceramic cookware.

Why Choose Ceramic Cookware?

Image by pixabay

Now that we've run through the reasons why you shouldn't use most popular cookware types, it's time to discuss the benefits of switching to ceramic cookware. In addition to being more sustainable than most metal counterparts, ceramic cookware is easier to use, more versatile in the kitchen, and, most importantly, less hazardous to our health.

Non-stick, durable, and toxin-free

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Ceramic cookware is naturally non-stick, without the addition of dangerous compounds like Teflon. This means your ceramic pieces are less likely to stick to and burn your food and are easier to clean. Some critics of ceramic cookware claim that pots and pans made from this material don't last quite as long as Teflon-coated cookware, but this claim is still up for debate.

Ceramic cookware doesn't require any chemical coatings to protect its surfaces. Although ceramic pots and pans are naturally very durable, you should still use care when using and cleaning them. Wooden utensils are the best option to avoid scratching the cooking surface. While some sources recommend plastic utensils, we would avoid them due to the potential hazards mentioned earlier. You should also avoid using abrasive sponges when cleaning your ceramic items. Taking these small steps will keep your ceramic cookware in great condition for years to come.

Extremely versatile

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Cookware made from ceramic can cook at temperatures up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Now, you're probably not going to be cooking anything at such a high temperature. But you can rest assured that your ceramic cookware can withstand all kinds of cooking. Even if you don't choose to replace all of your current cookware with ceramic, anything you use at particularly high heat is a good candidate. This is especially true since higher heat tends to release more toxins and fumes from traditional cookware.

Ceramic cookware can be used on most stovetops, in an oven, and even in the microwave. One heat source that won't work with your ceramic cookware is an induction stove top, which relies on a magnetic field to heat the pot or pan placed on top. However, while induction stovetops are gaining in popularity, they are still pretty uncommon in the average household.

How to Shop for Ceramic Cookware

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Unfortunately, switching to ceramic cookware is not as easy as just going to your local convenience store and picking up the first thing you see. There's a vast array of ceramic cookware on the market, but not all of it is beneficial to your family's health. Knowing how to discern between ceramic-coated and solid ceramic cookware is just part of the puzzle.

There are two important things to consider when shopping for ceramic cookware: the items' age and country of origin. Finding a high-quality product might mean spending a little more for your new cookware set. But this investment will ensure that your kitchen is free of toxic metals and chemicals.

Choosing the right ceramic cookware

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While it might be tempting to pick up a few vintage pieces of ceramic cookware for your kitchen, we don't recommend this. Older pieces of ceramic cookware were not subject to modern safety standards at the time of manufacture. Many of these pieces test positive for lead and other dangerous chemicals. Instead, reserve vintage cookware for use as home decor only.

It's possible to find high-quality ceramic cookware from all over the world. But different countries have different testing standards when it comes to the presence of toxic chemicals in their cookware. The safest countries to purchase from are the United States and Canada, which both have systems in place to guarantee that ceramic cookware produced in the country is free of lead and other dangerous materials.

Where to buy & pricing

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Some popular cookware brands, like Cuisinart, offer solid ceramic product lines. But ceramic-coated cookware is much more common from these brands. If you buy cookware from a brand that doesn't exclusively sell 100 percent solid ceramic cookware, double-check that their products aren't just ceramic-coated.

You might be able to find the occasional 100 percent ceramic cookware piece at your local department or kitchen supply store. But for a complete set, you will probably need to shop online. Two of the largest ceramic cookware brands are Xtrema and Dr. Mercola. Xtrema products are available on Amazon and the Xtrema website. Dr. Mercola products are available on Amazon and the Dr. Mercola online shop. You can also find a selection of handmade ceramic cookware on Etsy, but item quality can vary greatly between each seller.

At first glance, 100 percent ceramic cookware can seem much more expensive than non-stick or metal cookware. But cookware comes in a wide range of qualities, from extremely cheap to luxury. The average piece of ceramic cookware is much better quality than most bargain sets containing metal. Comparing ceramic cookware to comparable mid-range pots and pans shows the truth. Good quality ceramic products are very similar in price to those made from more harmful materials.

Making the Switch

While a ceramic cookware set is a great way to invest in your family's health, the task of replacing all of your cookware is often daunting. Specialty items like ceramic woks and steamers might be harder to locate. Don't fret if you aren't able to switch over your family's kitchenware to solid ceramic all at once. Start with the items your family uses most and slowly work from there. Any decrease in your food's exposure to leached metals and fumes is a step in the right direction.

A key part of responsibly replacing your metal cookware is how you discard of it. Some recycling facilities can accept and process these items. This prevents them from sitting in a landfill or continuing to cause direct damage to the environment. In time, more people will adopt safer, sustainable cookware. And with this change, we will hopefully see products containing Teflon and toxic metals removed from the market completely.

Do you have a favorite brand of ceramic cookware? Tell us about it in the comments!

The Best Non-Stick Cookware for Organic Cooking

best non stick cookware

You’ve got the organic fruits, vegetables, and grains, and you’re ready to start cooking. But do you have the best non-stick cookware for the job? Organic food has been around since agriculture first began, of course. But the organic food movement didn’t start until the 20th century when people started to become concerned about the practices used to grow their food.

As chemical farming grew more popular, so did the resistance to it. You might be surprised to learn that the first lecture on organic food was given in 1924. But it wasn’t until the late 20th century that organic food became a trend that could be found in major grocery stores and popular magazines.

Today, organic cooking is an integral part of many people’s lives. However, it’s easy to give more thought to the food you cook than to the cookware you cook it with. Are you using the best non-stick cookware to preserve the health of your dietary choices? Cookware can do more than you might think. Keep reading to learn how to choose the best non-stick cookware for organic cooking, and why it matters.

Non-Stick Cookware Concerns

Non-Stick Cookware

Just like with food, not all the cookware on the market is actually safe. Many cookware items contain metals that leach, chemicals that get into the food, and other harmful substances that you may not be aware of.

Your cookware can be the culprit behind many health concerns if you aren’t careful to invest in non-toxic items. One of the biggest culprits of these health issues is non-stick cookware.

It’s easy to see the appeal of non-stick pans. Isn’t it wonderful when your scrambled eggs simply glide out of the pan, making cleanup a breeze? The best non-stick cookware is perfectly safe, as long as you use it properly. But a lot of non-stick cookware isn’t safe at all. With the wrong non-stick cookware, you could be paying for convenience in a serious way.

The History of Non-Stick Cookware


A researcher named Roy Plunkett is credited with inventing the method that makes cookware non-stick. While trying to create a relatively non-toxic refrigerant, he accidentally invented polytetrafluoroethylene (or PTFE). This waxy material was very slippery and quickly got patented.

However, non-stick cookware wasn’t actually invented until a French engineer named Marc Gregoire figured out how to make PTFE stick to aluminum. His new cookware quickly caught on, first in France and then around the world. Within years, non-stick cookware became a regular household item.

The Problem with Non-Stick Cookware

The convenience is great, but over the years since non-stick cookware was invented, studies have pointed to a number of related health concerns.

The non-stick surface contains perfluorooctanoic acid (or PFOA.) Many studies have linked the accidental consumption of PFOA to a host of health issues. It appears to have a connection to cancers, heart attack, stroke, immune system issues, and more serious health problems. The problems start when the non-stick cookware’s surface begins to flake or melt away and get into the food.

More problems stem from the aluminum surface beneath the non-stick coating. As the non-stick layer wears away, the aluminum gets revealed. However, aluminum cookware isn’t safe either. Studies have linked aluminum consumption to diseases like Alzheimer’s. Although these studies aren’t yet conclusive, it’s enough to make anyone think twice before cooking with aluminum.

How to Choose the Best Non-Stick Cookware

How to Choose the Best Non-Stick Cookware

With such strong warnings, it might seem like non-stick cookware is best avoided. There are plenty of safe alternatives to non-stick cookware, such as cast iron, stoneware, and stainless steel. However, these alternatives are often expensive, unwieldy, and difficult to clean. The good news is that it is possible to use non-stick cookware. The key is to invest in the best non-stick cookware designed for safety. Cheap non-stick coatings can easily scratch, flake, and come off in your food. But well-maintained, high-quality non-stick cookware can be used for years with no issues.

Many companies make non-stick cookware that’s also non-toxic. They might use base materials other than aluminum to reduce the chances of dangerous metals leaching into your food. And they’ll use higher-quality non-stick coatings that can’t be damaged easily. Although you should still replace any cookware with a damaged surface, the best non-stick cookware is designed to hold up well to repeated use.

The Top Non-Stick Cookware Items You Should Have

The Top Non-Stick Cookware Items You Should Have

Which non-stick items are an essential part of an organic kitchen? Let’s take a look at the top non-stick items to invest in.

Saute pan

You can recognize a saute pan by its depth and straight, tall sides. For true sauteeing, a skillet is actually the better choice, surprisingly. But a good non-stick saute pan is great for braising, frying, and more. It’s the perfect medium-sized vessel when you don’t want to break out your biggest, heaviest pots.

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Saute pans are also great for cooking sauces, such as a pasta sauce, from scratch. With the size of the pan, you can easily add the pasta when the sauce is ready, cutting down on the number of dishes you'll need to wash.

Saucier

You definitely should have a saucepan, in addition to a saute pan. For the best-quality saucepan, invest in a non-stick saucier. In a saucier, you can make sauces, but they’re also great for making soups and anything that you need to cook slowly over low heat.

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Since the bottom of a saucier doesn’t have any sharp corners, you can easily stir the whole thing. Combine this with the non-stick surface, and you won’t have any issues with sauces sticking to the pan.

Skillet

Finally, a skillet is the most essential non-stick cookware item for most organic kitchens. In a skillet, you can saute vegetables, cook perfect eggs, make stirfries, and much more. In fact, you might want to invest in a couple of skillets of different sizes. You’ll need a much smaller skillet for a single omelet than for a family-sized stirfry.


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Now is a good time to take stock of your kitchen. If you have any old, warped, or scratched non-stick cookware, throw it out. Is your kitchen missing any non-stick cooking essentials now? If so, you should invest in the best non-stick cookware to make your organic cooking as easy as it is healthy.

We’ve put together the best non-stick cookware items that you might want to have. From essential to luxurious, keep reading for our top cookware choices.

Cuisinart GreenGourmet 10-Inch Open Skillet

Cuisinart GreenGourmet 10-Inch Open Skillet

Let’s start with the basics. This is an affordable, safe, medium-sized skillet that’s sure to become a staple in any kitchen.

The GreenGourmet brand uses a ceramic base to keep its cookware safe. The non-stick coating doesn’t have any potentially toxic PFOA or PTFE. The design also has great heat conductivity for even cooking, and often uses recycled materials to help save the planet. 

GreenPan Mini Ceramic Non-Stick Round Egg Pan

GreenPan Mini Ceramic Non-Stick Round Egg Pan

GreenPan is another non-stick option that uses ceramic for safety. This Belgian high-end cookware brand uses Thermolon, made from sand, to create a ceramic non-stick coating. It’s free of PFAS, PFOA, lead, and cadmium, all of which are dangerous when they leach into food.

You can also use these pans at high temps without damage. The company uses green production methods, too, so this is a really guilt-free brand to buy from. 

Scanpan Classic 10 1/4-Inch Saute Pan with Lid

Scanpan Classic 10 Saute Pan with Lid

Scanpan calls its non-stick coating Green Tek: a ceramic titanium layer that has no PFOA or PFOS and resists scratching. The pans use recycled aluminum, but since the coating won’t scratch they’re safe to use. The aluminum is also pressure-cast, so it holds and distributes heat better than most aluminum pans.

Zwilling Spirit 3-Quart Stainless Steel Ceramic Nonstick Saucepan

Zwilling Spirit 3-Quart Stainless Steel Ceramic Nonstick Saucepan

You might have heard about the famous Zwilling knives. However, this German cookware brand makes much more than just cutlery.

Ozeri 12-Inch Green Earth Wok

Ozeri 12-Inch Green Earth Wok

A non-stick wok can make a surprisingly versatile kitchen implement, and Ozeri is a great brand to buy from. This company uses Greblon, a German non-toxic, non-stick coating. The ceramic-based surface has no PFOA or PTFE and resists scratches, and the wok comes in a fun lime green color. 

GreenLife Ceramic Non-Stick Cookie Sheet

GreenLife Ceramic Non-Stick Cookie Sheet

Even your baking pans can be non-stick and totally safe. GreenLife also uses Thermolon, which holds up well to high heat in the oven. You can safely clean this surface with gentle abrasive agents, on occasion. 

Beka Chef Eco-logic Nonstick 9 1/2-Inch Fry Pan

Beka Chef Eco-logic Nonstick 9 1.5-Inch Fry Pan

The Beka brand’s Eco-logic line uses a safe, environmentally friendly non-stick coating. These products avoid PFOA and PTFE and are made using green methods. Biodegradable materials like bamboo powder make the cookware unique and safe to use.

Ecolution Bliss Ceramic Nonstick Cookware Set

Ecolution Bliss Ceramic Nonstick Cookware Set

If you want to get all of the best non-stick cookware in one go, consider a set like this one from Ecolution. The brand’s Bliss line uses a coating of water-based ceramic with no PFOA or PTFE. You can use these pots and pans on gas, electric, and induction ranges.

Try one of the four colors to match your kitchen style: red, black, gray, or white. They print the packaging on recycled material, making this another choice that will be easy on your conscience. 

The Verdict

All of these top cookware items have their pros and cons. But what’s the best non-stick cookware piece for any kitchen?

Although it all depends on your unique kitchen needs, we give top marks to the Cuisinart GreenGourmet 10-Inch Open Skillet. It’s a versatile size and shape, easy to use, and very affordable for the quality.

Because of safety concerns, non-stick cookware has a bad rap. But lots of companies are now addressing this by making the best non-stick cookware that’s non-toxic, even if you scratch it. Will you be picking up any items from this list? Let us know in the comments!

Our Most Delicious Tips and Methods for How to Cook Cauliflower

how to cook cauliflower

In the 1500s, cauliflower was a delicacy reserved for royalty. Today, commoners are a little luckier: we can eat all kinds of things that were once only found on royal tables. But without a castle full of chefs at your service, you’ll need to learn how to cook cauliflower.

For a while, cauliflower actually fell from its early glory. Many 20th-century consumers saw it as a bland vegetable, eaten only by people so health-obsessed that they were willing to sacrifice taste. But in recent years, it has enjoyed a resurgence.

Cauliflower doesn’t just have a fascinating history. It also offers a long list of health benefits, and even works well to replace the carbohydrates that some people seek to avoid. It’s easy to cook, and can be turned into a surprisingly wide variety of dishes to suit any palate.

Ready to learn how to cook cauliflower? We’ve got you covered — read on to discover everything you need to know about broccoli’s most famous cousin!

Humans and Cauliflower: A Brief History

Cauliflower dish in a plate

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To understand why you should learn how to cook cauliflower, it helps to understand our relationship with this vegetable throughout the ages. It’s more of a dietary staple than you might realize!

Cauliflower actually started out as wild cabbage. Years of selective breeding produced cauliflower and the other cabbage relatives that we know today, like kale, brussels sprouts, and broccoli.

With selective breeding, humans have turned countless plants into versions that are tastier, more nutritious, and easier to harvest. People in the Mediterranean region were probably the first to grow cauliflower — history from the Middle Ages attributes the vegetable’s origins to the island of Cyprus.

Trade throughout Europe brought cauliflower seeds outward from Cyprus. The plant reached France in the 1500s, and as the French learned how to cook cauliflower, it soon became a delicacy. Over the next few centuries, it spread all over the world.

Cauliflower has been bred to meet human tastes and needs from the start, which explains why it’s so versatile for modern cooking — and so healthy. It contains lots of vitamins and other nutrients, like potassium. Although it’s low in calories, the high fiber content makes it filling.

Ready to learn how to cook cauliflower? Let’s dig in!

How to Cook Cauliflower: Our Favorite Methods

Cauliflower can be eaten raw as a tasty side dish or salad ingredient. However, cooking it opens up a wealth of new possibilities.

Here are some of our favorite cauliflower cooking methods, and a few ideas for what to do with the results.

Microwave

The microwave probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think about cooking nutritious meals. But if you want to know how to cook cauliflower, this is actually one of the best ways to start.

Not only is microwave cooking quick and easy, but it also preserves many of the nutrients in your vegetables.

Heat causes some vitamins and nutrients to break down, which is why raw vegetables are the most nutritious choice.

But if you can minimize the amount of time your food is exposed to heat during cooking, you can preserve more of its nutrients. Microwaves do their job fast, so your food doesn’t lose as much nutrition.

Cooking foods in water or other liquids also causes nutrient loss, since the liquid leaches out nutrients. So if you want nutrient-rich food, steaming is your best bet, and microwave steaming is better yet.

To steam your cauliflower in the microwave, just put the florets in a microwave-safe bowl with about a tablespoon of water in the bottom. Add a microwave-safe lid as a cover, and cook your cauliflower for one minute, or until it’s done to your liking.

You can use your steamed cauliflower as an ingredient in another recipe, or use a food processor to mash it up with seasoning and goat cheese for an amazing side dish.

Steam

If you don’t have a microwave, stovetop steaming also gives highly nutritious results.

You can use a steamer basket if you have one, or just a pan if you don’t. (The steamer basket gives the most nutritious results since it doesn't directly expose the vegetable to water.)

For the steamer basket, place your cauliflower in the basket, place the basket in a saucepan, and fill the pan with water to just below the basket. Bring the water to a boil, then cover it and let it simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on your preference.

To steam cauliflower in a pan, add enough water to cover the bottom of your frying pan. Boil and salt the water, then add your cauliflower. Cover the pan and steam for 5 to 10 minutes, then drain and serve.

Roast

When many people think of how to cook cauliflower, they think of roasting. Although this method doesn’t preserve nutrients the way steaming does, it does bring out the earthy flavor of the vegetable beautifully.

To roast cauliflower, preheat your oven to 450 degrees F, then coat the cauliflower in olive oil and seasoning. Evenly space the florets on an oven sheet (you can line it with aluminum foil for easy clean-up).

Put the pan in the heated oven, and roast the cauliflower for about 20 to 25 minutes, turning it halfway through.

Roasting cauliflower makes an excellent side dish (try sprinkling it with cheese!). You can also roast cauliflower alongside other hearty vegetables like beets, sweet potatoes, and carrots for a nice mix.

Saute

You can also saute your cauliflower if that’s more your style. This method lets you season the dish as you go, or prepare the cauliflower before adding it to another dish, like a stirfry.

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a skillet until it’s hot. Place your cauliflower florets in the skillet and cook them on one side for a few minutes until that side is golden brown. Flip the cauliflower and brown the other side. Continue flipping and cooking until the florets are evenly browned.

Try adding herbs, bacon, or other vegetables to inject your sauteed cauliflower with variety.

Boil

Boiling isn’t the ideal method for cooking most vegetables: it tends to leach out the flavor, as well as the nutrients. However, if you want a mild taste, or don’t have the equipment needed for steaming, boiling is an effective way to prep cauliflower for mashing or pureeing.

Use a large pot of salted water, and add the cauliflower once it’s boiling. Cook it for 5 to 10 minutes to reach the desired consistency. Take care not to overcook it.

You can make a delicious cauliflower soup by pureeing your boiled cauliflower with herbs and chicken broth.

Fry

Fried cauliflower makes a surprisingly tasty vegetarian substitute for wings.

Start with cooked cauliflower (sauteeing or steaming are good methods here). Then, heat oil in your deep fryer, and coat the cauliflower with a mix of one beaten egg and a couple of teaspoons of milk. Roll the coated cauliflower in cracker or bread crumbs for a crispy exterior.

Fry the cauliflower until the outside is golden brown. Serve with buffalo, ranch, or your favorite dipping sauce on the side. Don’t have a deep fryer? You can also pan-fry this dish in a skillet with oil until it’s browned.

Pickle

If you’re looking for interesting alternatives for how to cook cauliflower, why not try pickling it?

To pickle cauliflower, start with the florets of two large cauliflower heads. Mix them with some pearl onions and a quarter-cup of canning or pickling salt in a big bowl, and cover the mixture with ice. Leave it in the fridge for a few hours before draining, then rinse the salt away and drain the vegetables again.

You’ll need a boiling water canner for the water bath. Heat pint-sized canning jars with simmering (not boiling) water, and have the lids cleaned and ready to go on the side.

In a saucepan, mix four cups of white vinegar and two cups of sugar with some herbs and spices (try celery seed, mustard seed, and turmeric). Boil the vinegar mix, then add the cauliflower mix. Simmer for five minutes.

Fill the jars with the vegetable and vinegar mix, with about a half-inch of room at the top of each jar. Make sure there aren’t any air bubbles inside before sealing them with the lids.

Then, put the jars in the boiling water canner for about 15 minutes. Let them stand, lids off, for five minutes before sealing and cooling them. In a day or two, they’ll be ready to eat!

Pickling isn’t easy: it requires special tools and care (you’ll be working with hot water, hot jars, hot vinegar, and hot vegetables!). However, it does give tasty results once you master the technique. Add your pickled cauliflower to wraps, cheese plates, and more.

How to Cook Cauliflower: Tips and Tricks

Roasted cauliflower in a plate

Image via: Flickr

Now that you know the basics of how to cook cauliflower, let’s take a look at the tricks that will help you get the most out of this trending vegetable.

Shopping for cauliflower

When buying cauliflower, look for a dense head of florets in an even white shade. Pick up the head: if it’s heavy, that’s a good sign. Feel it and make sure it’s firm all over. Check that the leaves are a vibrant, crisp green, not wilted. Make sure the stem looks freshly cut.

In addition to white varieties, you can find yellow, green, orange, and even purple cauliflower. However, the head shouldn’t be turning brown. If there are just a few small brown spots, you can cut them off before cooking. Make sure the florets are still intact and haven’t started flowering.

High-quality cauliflower heads can be both large and small, so don’t choose based on size. Pre-cut cauliflower goes bad faster and tends to come with a hefty surcharge, so only buy whole heads.

Storing cauliflower

Once you’ve chosen a beautiful head of cauliflower, how do you store it?

Don’t wash it right away, but keep it tightly wrapped in plastic. Moisture will make cauliflower go bad faster. Keep it stem-side-down in the refrigerator, so moisture won’t collect on the florets you plan to cook.

A head of raw cauliflower will keep for up to a week in the fridge. Once it’s cooked, you can only store it for about two to three days. However, you can also freeze cooked cauliflower for as long as a year (it will be safe to eat past a year, but will start to lose its quality).

Preparing cauliflower

Only wash your cauliflower right before you plan to cook it.

Many people use just the florets, discarding the leaves and stem. However, you can actually use the whole cauliflower if you want to. The stem will cook the same way as the florets, while the delicate leaves can be eaten raw in salads or used to garnish a cauliflower soup.

Now You Know How to Cook Cauliflower: Time to Give It a Try!

Romanesco cauliflower on chopping board

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Learning how to cook cauliflower well is sure to change your opinion of this vegetable.

Overcooked cauliflower has that bland, mushy taste many of us know and hate. But with these tips for how to cook cauliflower, you’ll quickly see why cauliflower is on par with kale as a trendy ingredient in modern dishes.

Ready to grace your kitchen with the vegetable 16th-century French royalty was obsessed with? Let us know which of these methods you’re excited to try in the comments!

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