A cauliflower, or ‘cauli’ for short, is made up of masses of tiny, creamy white stems called ‘curds’ that make this vegetable look like clouds although they aren’t that soft. Underneath are white edible stems and just like broccoli, these can be cut apart so that they look like trees.
Cauliflowers don’t like the heat so are grown in the winter months and a good sized head of cauliflower will be around 20cm across.
Choose a spot in the garden where there is lots of space and that gets at least 6 hours of sun every day. Prepare the garden bed by removing any weeds and digging in lots of compost and organic matter as cauliflowers love this. Use a dibbler or big stick to make small holes about 60cm apart and gently place one seedling into each one, pushing the soil around the roots. Water the seedlings lightly.
Cauliflowers can be grow in very large containers or barrels but need plenty of room as the plant will grow to around 50cm wide. Fill the containers with premium potting mix, plant the seedlings in small holes and water them lightly.
CARE AND MAINTENANCE
Cauliflowers grow through the winter so they will probably get lots of water from the rain but if there are several dry days in a row, they will need to be handwatered so that they don’t dry out.
The head of the cauliflower can start to turn yellow if it gets too much sunlight so to give them some shade, break the largest outside leaves so that they fold inwards and tie them together over the top.
The cauliflower needs to be harvested while it is still white and the curds are nice and tight; the head will be around 20cm across. Either the whole head of the cauliflower can be harvested by using a knife to cut the stem below it or if only a small amount is needed for dinner, just cut some of the branches and leave the rest their to keep growing as new florets will continue to develop.
HOW TO EAT
Cauliflower is generally broken into smaller pieces and washed really well before serving. It can be cooked for just a few minutes in the microwave or steamed over simmering water but should always be served still crunchy as this is when it is tastiest.
Cauliflower is delicious without anything added but a very popular dish called Cauliflower Au Gratin is made by pouring a white sauce over the top and baking in the oven. Another winter favourite is Cauliflower Soup which is really easy to make and very healthy.
The small florets, which are the branches of the cauliflower, are brilliant served raw for digging into dips. Find great recipes in the Smarty Plants Kitchen.
HOW THEY GROW
Cauliflower seedlings first grow very large, thick leaves that are slightly greyish green. Eventually a white mass of flowers begins to form in the centre which becomes the size of a plate. This is the part that we eat which is made up of a thick white stalk and thousands of tiny flowers tightly packed together.
Botanical Name: Brassica oleracea botrytis
Life Cycle: Annual
When to Grow: Usually sown by seed in summer or planted as seedlings in autumn so the cauliflowers can grow strong throughout winter.
Height/Width: 50cm x 50cm.
Requirements: Plant in full sun and water them every day. Apply a liquid fertiliser every fortnight.
Nutritional Benefits: Excellent source of vitamin C and dietary fibre.