Cauliflower is one of the most temperamental plants to grow in the garden. It cannot tolerate too cool or too hot of temperatures, but loves the sun. This vegetable is a descendant of the cabbage family, and usually comes white but can also be purple, yellow and orange.
Throughout this post, you may hear me use the word “curd” often - this refers to the crown head of the cauliflower. Typically with growing cauliflower, people have the most issues with the curd budding before the plant is ready to produce one that is large enough. The best way to prevent this from happening would be to cover the curd. When the curd reaches the size of about a tennis ball, you’ll want to take the inner 3-4 leaves and wrap them as best you can around the curd to cover it. You can tie them or fasten them in whatever way works, some people use pantyhose for this. This is called blanching.
Since cauliflower curd’s tend to grow very quickly, it will likely be ready to be picked 1-2 weeks after completing this blanching process.
If a cauliflower gets too hot, it will start to button smaller flowers and form several very small curds rather than the one large one in the center. Though this plant loves the sun, it is best to plant it in a partially shaded area of your garden.
Water regularly, providing about 2 inches of water per week. Even with normal rainfall, cauliflower still tends to have high water demands and it is best to keep the watering consistent so that the fruit does not sprout growth too early.
If you cauliflower begins to look brown while growing, that means there is a boron deficiency in the soil. Put 1 tablespoon of Borax in 1 gallon of water and dress the soil - be sure to avoid getting this mixture in contact with the plants as it can damage them.
In white varieties, pink tinge to the head of the cauliflower can indicate too much sun exposure, or too drastic temperature changes.
If the white head begins to turn purple, that can mean the plant is stressed from heat, or the soil is not providing enough nutrients.
You’ll want to pick the cauliflower once it has reached its full size, but before it starts to separate. This will cause a grainy texture for your cauliflower. The best way to know when to harvest is to keep an eye on the tightness of the curd, if it starts to look like space is developing between groupings, you should harvest immediately. This typically happens when the cauliflower is 6-12 inches in diameter. When you harvest, you’ll want to cut the cauliflower at the base of the main stem, but you’ll want to also take a few of the surrounding leaves with it to protect it during storage. Be sure to handle the head carefully as it can very easily bruise at this point.
We also recommend soaking the cauliflower head in a mixture of 2 tbsp of salt with 1 gallon of water for 20-30 minutes to ensure that any pests or diseases are removed before consumption. Sometimes cabbage worms live inside of the cauliflower, so this will force them out.
What are the differences between the various colors of cauliflower?
Purple: Called the“graffiti” cauliflower- tends to be milder and sweeter than the other varieties.
White: Smooth, white and is called“snowball” tends to provide the most yield.
Orange: Called “Cheddar” or “Flame Star” are usually creamier and higher in Vitamin A
Cauliflower is a great alternative to gluten based meals such as pizza or pasta when it can be swapped out for the flour portion of the dish. Ever made cauliflower pizza dough? Its delicious!