Is fuzzy cauliflower safe to eat? (why is it fuzzy)

In this article, we will discuss whether fuzzy cauliflower is safe to eat, what causes the cauliflower to become fuzzy, how to identify spoiled cauliflower and how to properly store cauliflower.

The fuzzy aspect of some cauliflower heads has the technical name “riciness” or “ricing” and is caused by factors related to the environment or growing conditions. Although you may want to reject the fuzzy cauliflower, it is safe to eat.

Is fuzzy cauliflower safe to eat?

Yes, fuzzy cauliflower is safe to eat. The fuzzy aspect of the cauliflower affects mainly the form and the visual aspect of the plant, reducing its acceptability and marketability (1, 2, 3). 

However, the fuzziness in cauliflower, which is called “riciness” or “riceying” is only a result of improper growing conditions or excessive fertilisation of the plant, rather than an indication of spoilage. 

Spoilage in cauliflower is manifested differently and characterised by sliminess and unpleasant odours, among other characteristics (4). You can safely purchase a fuzzy cauliflower, prepare it and consume it as usual without any risks.

To safely prepare a fuzzy cauliflower, wash the vegetable thoroughly with running water, remove dirt and insects, trim the cauliflower into smaller pieces and cook it in boiling water or steam.

How to identify a fuzzy cauliflower?

A fuzzy cauliflower is identified by the appearance of the curd, which resembles a bowl of cooked rice. The curd is the edible white inflorescences of the plant, which develop from the flowers.

Under specific conditions, the flower peduncles elongate excessively and grow relatively more loose and separated from each other. Due to this, the vegetable may be rejected, although it results from a physiological disorder of the plant (1, 2).

What causes fuzziness in cauliflower?

The fuzziness in cauliflower may be caused by the following conditions (1, 2, 3, 4):

  • Untypical high temperatures during the development of the curd (edible inflorescence)
  • Fertilisation using nitrogen in high concentrations
  • Growing during an unfavourable season
  • The use of inappropriate seeds
  • Choosing inappropriate plant cultivars for the specific growing condition

To prevent fuzziness in cauliflower, proper growing conditions should be followed, especially regarding growing temperature and season, fertilisation and choice of the cultivar.

How to identify spoiled cauliflower?

A spoiled cauliflower may be identified by its unpleasant odour, such as fermented or sour. Microbial as well as enzymatic activities lead to changes in the texture, which softens leading to sof-rot and decay (4, 5).

Mesophilic bacteria, yeasts and moulds may affect cauliflower and lead to fast deterioration, especially when stored at higher temperatures.

Brown spots may indicate spoilage due to microbial activities, although discolourations such as yellowing may occur due to mineral deficiencies in the plant (1). 

Slime formation on the surface of the product and gas production, which is noticeable by the bloating of the package may indicate spoilage due to microbial growth (4, 5).

How to properly store cauliflower?

To properly store cauliflower, you should consider low temperatures, preferentially below 40 °F (4 °C) and near to freezing temperatures.  This may increase the shelf life of cauliflower and reduce nutrient losses during storage (4).

Uncooked cauliflower has a shelf life of about 2 weeks in the refrigerator and cooked cauliflower has a shelf life of about 4 days in the refrigerator (4, 5). Alternatively, you can freeze cauliflower.

By properly storing cauliflower, spoilage can be prevented. Spoiled cauliflower is not safe to eat and can lead to foodborne diseases. Reject plants that have signs of spoilage. 


In this article, we discussed what causes the fuzziness aspect of the cauliflower and if fuzzy cauliflower is safe to eat. Cauliflower with the appearance of boiled rice is perfectly safe to eat, although it is commonly rejected by consumers. We also discussed how to identify a spoiled cauliflower.

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