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What to do if cauliflower has black spots?

Discovering black spots on your cauliflower can be alarming. However, not all black spots indicate the cauliflower has gone bad. Here are some quick answers about what black spots on cauliflower mean and what to do if you find them:

What causes black spots on cauliflower?

There are a few potential causes of black spots on cauliflower:

  • Fungal infection – One of the most common reasons for black spots is a fungal infection called anthracnose. This fungus thrives in warm, humid conditions.
  • Freezing injury – If cauliflower has been stored in the freezer for too long, black spots can develop due to freezing damage.
  • Physical damage – Rough handling that causes bruising can lead to black or brown blemishes.
  • Insect damage – Some insects bore tiny holes and leave behind black specks.

Are black spots on cauliflower safe to eat?

Small black spots on cauliflower are usually harmless. Simply trim off any damaged areas, and the remaining head should be safe to eat. However, if the spots are extensive or accompanied by soft, mushy areas, it’s best to discard the entire head.

How to prevent black spots on cauliflower

You can help prevent the formation of black spots on cauliflower by:

  • Choosing cauliflower heads without bruises or discoloration.
  • Storing cauliflower properly in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic, for no more than 5-7 days.
  • Avoiding over-freezing. Store frozen cauliflower for no more than 8-10 months.
  • Gently handling cauliflower when transporting and trimming to avoid bruising.
  • Controlling pests in the garden that can damage cauliflower.

What to do if you find black spots on cauliflower

If you discover black spots on cauliflower you’ve purchased or grown, follow these steps:

  1. Trim off any seriously damaged areas and discard them.
  2. Check for signs of soft rot – discarded the cauliflower if the head feels mushy.
  3. Wash the cauliflower thoroughly under cool running water.
  4. Inspect the head thoroughly and continue trimming any remaining black spots.
  5. Use the cauliflower promptly within a few days.

With minimal trimming, cauliflower with a few minor spots should be perfectly safe to cook and eat. Just be diligent about removing any overripe or mushy sections.

Can you eat cauliflower with black spots?

In most cases, it is safe to eat cauliflower even if some small black spots are present. Simply remove the damaged areas. However, you should avoid eating cauliflower with black spots if:

  • There is extensive dark discoloration throughout the head.
  • The spots are accompanied by soft, mushy patches.
  • The cauliflower has a foul odor.
  • You see signs of mold.

If the blemishes are limited to just a few spots, the surrounding cauliflower is still firm, and it has no unpleasant scent, it should be fine to use the undamaged parts after trimming.

Common questions about black spots on cauliflower

Can I cut out the black spots and still eat the cauliflower?

Yes, you can cut away minor black spots and consume the rest of the cauliflower. Be sure to remove at least an inch around each spot to be safe.

Should I throw out cauliflower with a few black spots?

A few small black spots are not a cause to discard the entire head. Simply trim away the damaged areas and use the good portions.

Do black spots mean the cauliflower has gone bad?

Not necessarily. A few small spots do not indicate the cauliflower is spoiled. However, extensive dark areas or mushy texture means it should be discarded.

Can you eat cauliflower with fungus?

It is not recommended to eat parts of the cauliflower that are affected by fungus. But if it is just a few spots, you can consume the rest of the head after cutting away any moldy or damaged parts.

Is it OK to cook cauliflower with black spots?

Yes, it is fine to cook cauliflower that has a few minor black spots. Just trim away any seriously damaged areas, wash thoroughly, and use the good portions of the head.

Should I refrigerate cauliflower with black spots?

Proper refrigeration is important for cauliflower that has spots. Store it in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer and use within 5 days. Refrigeration prevents further spread of fungus.

Can insects cause black spots on cauliflower?

Yes, some insects can chew tiny holes and leave behind black damage on cauliflower heads. Common culprits include cabbage worms, cabbage loopers, and thrips.

Health risks of eating cauliflower with black spots

Consuming cauliflower with extensive damage or rot can potentially cause health issues. Fungal growth and decay can produce toxins that cause symptoms like:

  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain and cramps
  • Fever, chills
  • Headache

In severe cases, the toxins can progress to cause liver damage. It’s crucial to discard severely affected cauliflower.

How to use cauliflower with minor black spots

Cauliflower heads with just a few black spots or blemishes can be used in any recipe after trimming. Here are some tasty ways to use it up quickly:

  • Roast cauliflower florets seasoned with oil, salt, and pepper.
  • Add cauliflower to soups, stews, or casseroles.
  • Saute cauliflower rice or riced cauliflower.
  • Bake cauliflower into frittata or quiche.
  • Use in Caesar salad, curry, or stir fry.
  • Make mashed cauliflower in place of mashed potatoes.

Should you eat discolored cauliflower?

Here is a table summarizing whether you should eat cauliflower with various types of discoloration:

Discoloration Should You Eat It?
A few minor black spots Yes, trim spots and eat remainder
Small brown spots Yes, trim spots and eat remainder
Extensive black areas No, discard whole head
Large soft/mushy patches No, discard whole head
Visible mold No, discard whole head
Foul odor No, discard whole head

As shown in the table, cauliflower with minor spots can be trimmed and eaten. But extensive discoloration, mold, mushiness, or foul smells warrant discarding the entire head.

Storing cauliflower to prevent more black spots

Proper storage is key to preventing existing black spots on cauliflower from worsening and new ones from forming. Follow these storage tips:

  • Refrigerate cauliflower immediately, ideally at 32-35°F.
  • Wrap cauliflower heads loosely in plastic wrap or place in a ventilated bag.
  • Do not wash before storing. Washing removes protective outer leaves.
  • Store cauliflower in the coldest part of the refrigerator – the crisper drawer.
  • Use within 5-7 days for best quality and to avoid further issues.


Finding black spots on cauliflower can be worrisome but isn’t necessarily a sign to discard the whole head. In many cases, some simple trimming is all that’s needed. Remove any seriously affected areas, wash thoroughly, and the remainder should be fine to enjoy. With proper refrigeration and prompt use, cauliflower with a few minor blemishes can be saved.

However, extensive dark spots, mold, mushy texture, or foul odors indicate the cauliflower has spoiled and possible toxin development. At that point, it’s safest to throw it out and avoid eating any of the damaged parts. With just a few precautions, it’s easy to determine if cauliflower with black spots can be salvaged or not.