Cauliflowers require much effort and attention to grow successfully but it can be a very satisfactory achievement once mastered. If you find them difficult to grow try a miniature variety with a shorter growing season. There are three main types:
Soil Type: Rich, deep, firm soil. Manured the previous autumn.
Conditions: Full sun.
Ease of Cultivation: Moderate to difficult.
Type: Leafy Vegetable.
Hardiness: Hardy in most regions of the UK.
When to Sow: Summer/autumn: February-May; autumn/winter: April-June
Harvest Season: March to November, depending on variety.
Follow standard crop rotation rules for brassicas. Do not grow in ground that has been used for brassicas in the last few years.
The soil needs to be firm with plenty of organic matter incorporated. So prepare the bed early and allow it to settle before planting.
Incorporate a general fertilizer into the surface about two weeks before planting.
Sow seeds of summer and autumn varieties in trays or modules under cover from February to May. Gradually pot-on until time to plant out. Do not allow them to become pot bound. Harden off and plant out from May to June.
Firm plants in and water well when planting out so that the roots get establish. Like cabbages cauliflowers should be planted deep, up to the base of the first seed leaves. This helps develop a firm stalk and prevents root rock, which can impede development.
Sow seeds of autumn and winter varieties outside from April to June. Sow in a well-prepared bed with plenty of organic matter incorporated.
Make three or four sowings a few weeks apart to maintain a succession of crops.
Late sown plants should be protected under frames for frost protection.
Keep weed free and water copiously in dry weather.
Once the curds start form, bend some of the inner leaves over the head to shade it. Excessive sunlight can cause the curds to go off colour and yellow.
Cauliflowers are susceptible to the same pests and diseased as other brassicas. Caterpillars and slugs not only attack the leaves but can munch away on the curds. The roots can also be affected by cabbage root fly so use cabbage collars to deter them.
Like all brassicas cauliflowers are also vulnerable club-root, although good resistant varieties are now available.
Harvest once the heads (curds) have formed sufficiently
for your use. Usually around 20 weeks for summer and
autumn varieties, and 45 weeks for winter varieties.
Don't leave the curds on too
long as they will continue to grow, spreading apart.
Some varieties will stand longer than others.
Remove the leaves and stalk stump and divide the head into florets. Wash thoroughly and blanch for 3 minutes. Drain and cool. Open freeze on trays before packing into freezer bags or containers. They should keep in the freezer for around 6 months.
Remove the leaves and stalk stump and divide the head into florets. Wash thoroughly and boil in lightly salted water for 12-15 minutes. Do not overcook. The curds should be slightly crisp (al dente) and not soggy.
Serve as a plain vegetable or with a white or cheese sauce.
As a member of the cruciferous vegetable family cauliflowers are packed with nutrients. A good source of fiber, vitamin C, folate and vitamin K. Also rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants.
Summer, autumn and winter varieties are available, so with careful planning it should be possible to have crops accessible from March to November. Yellow, orange and purple varieties are also available but the flavour may not be as good as the white forms.
Cauliflower 'Aalsmeer' (Spring) is a winter hardy variety that produces creamy white heads of good depth and weight. RHS AGM winner. Available at Thompson & Morgan.
Cauliflower 'All The Year Round' (Spring/ Summer/Autumn) is an easy-to-grow dwarf variety, which produces large tight heads. Can be sown and harvested all year round (overwinter under a coldframe). Height 24in (60cm), spread 30in (75cm). Available at Marshalls, Van Meuwen, Thompson & Morgan.
Cauliflower 'Boris' (F1 Hybrid) a robust garden variety that will grow in almost any soil type and weather condition. Available at Thompson & Morgan.
Cauliflower 'Chinese Sweet Sprouting' (F1 Hybrid) a new and unusual brassica that produces a mass of long stems with white florets that have a mild and sweet taste. Can be eaten as sprouting stems, just like broccoli. Sow March-May. Harvest June-September. Available at Thompson & Morgan.
Cauliflower 'Clapton' (Summer/Autumn) is a F1 Hybrid with excellent clubroot resistance. A versatile late summer to late autumn maturing variety with an erect habit. Produces large, uniform, deep white heads with excellent flavour. Available at Marshalls, Thompson & Morgan.
Cauliflower 'Jerome' (F1 Hybrid) is a vigorous growing RHS AGM variety that stands well through winter weather. Produces deep, white heads of superb quality. Available at Marshalls.
Cauliflower 'North Foreland' (F1 Hybrid) is a versatile winter hardy variety that matures through January and February. Good standing ability. Produces deep white curds. Available at Marshalls.
Cauliflower 'Sunset' (F1 Hybrid) is a unique orange cauliflower with a delicious taste. Harvest from July onwards. Available at Marshalls.
Cauliflower 'White Step' (Autumn) a fine F1 Hybrid compact variety, ideal for the smaller garden. It produces solid, pure white curds, of about 4in (10cm) diameter. Good heat tolerance for summer transplanting. Available at Thompson & Morgan.
Italian romanesco cauliflowers are highly attractive vegetables, with light green pointed spiraled florets that have a unique nutty flavour. Sometimes referred to as broccoli but they have a much better taste and texture.
Cauliflower Romanesco precoce is a green variety with a slightly nutty flavour. The 'spears' can be snapped off individually or all together. Available at Thompson & Morgan.
Cauliflower Romanesco Celio' is vigorous-growing F1 hybrid with deliciously flavoured green heads. Harvest from mid July to mid September. Good for deep freezing. Available at Marshalls.
Cauliflower 'Veronica' (Summer/Autumn) RHS AGM variety. Harvest from late summer to early frosts, with successional plantings. Protect heads with fleece to extend season. Available at Thompson & Morgan.