Cauliflower is a member of the cabbage family. The word “cauliflower” means “cabbage flower,” and centuries of cultivation were necessary to produce a tight head of clustered flower buds in place of the compact leaves of the cabbage head. Although there are thirty-five or more varieties of this vegetable, there are probably not more six or seven distinct varieties used.
The most important thing to know about cauliflower is that it is simple to grow when you have the proper conditions. This vegetable is a cold-weather crop that does not like very hot, dry summers. If you live near the ocean, you are in a fine location. If you live inland, and wish to grow cauliflower, grow your plants in a partial shade area and make sure you spray the plants with water to keep them moist.
Cauliflower contains sulfur compounds that easily break up and produce hydrogen sulfide, which has an offensive odor. If cauliflower is cooked too long, it will bring about the decomposition of these sulfur compounds.
Cauliflower is available all year, but the peak months are November through March. California is, by far, the largest grower; Arizona is second; and Colorado and New York are third.
The size of the vegetable has little to do with its quality. Fine quality cauliflower is creamy-white or white, clean, heavy, firm, and compact, with outer leaves that are fresh and green. Avoid cauliflower that has the appearance of being rice-like or granular, speckled, or spotted. A head that is no longer fresh may have yellowing leaves. If the leaves drop from the stalk, it is definitely not fresh.
Benefits of Cauliflower
Cauliflower also contains vitamin C and folate. Folate helps the blood work more efficiently and is often recommended for preventing anemia. Folate is also essential for proper tissue growth and not getting enough can make you succeptible to many diseases down the road such as cancer and heart disease. Vitamin C is considered an antioxident. When used alongside other antioxidents such as vitamin E and betacarotene, you can keep your immune system strong. Most people throw these away, but they are good when cooked with the cauliflower or cut up in salads. It is best to undercook this vegetable. Cauliflower is easier for diabetic people to eat than cabbage. It is also good for reducing diets, because it is so low in calories, but keep in mind that its high phosphorus content means it is gasforming.
Soil– Rich, moist soil, firm with plenty of well rotted compost dug in.
Position – Full sun.
Frost tolerant – Yes.
Feeding – Mix composted manure or another high-nitrogen compost into the soil before planting. When heads begin to form, feed with a liquid plant food. For best growth, side-dress the plants with a nitrogen fertilizer and water the plants regularly.
Companions – Alfalfa.
Spacing – Single Plants: 1′ 8″ (50cm) each way (minimum)
Rows: 1′ 6″ (45cm) with 2′ 0″ (60cm) row gap (minimum)
Sow and Plant – Sow indoors in early spring, and set out while the soil is still cool. It is best to start cauliflower from transplants rather than seeds. Do not transplant sooner than 2 to 3 weeks before the average frost date in the spring.
Notes – Cabbageworms are small green larvae of the cabbage white butterfly. You can use row covers to keep them from eating plants. Bend over a few leaves if required so that the cauliflower head is kept shaded while it is forming.
Harvesting – When the heads are compact, white, and firm, then it is time to harvest them. Harvest when the head has fully developed, but before the curd becomes loose, with a “ricey” appearance.
Troubleshooting – When plants are stressed by cold or drought, they may refuse to make heads.