Brassica oleracea var
The Cauliflower, like the Broccoli, is strictly an annual plant; as it blossoms and perfects its seed the year in which it is sown. When fully grown or in flower, it is about four feet in height, and in character and general appearance is similar to the Cabbage or Broccoli. The seeds resemble those of the Cabbage in size, form, and color, although not generally so uniformly plump and fair.
Soil.—The delicacy and excellence of the Cauliflower depends on the quickness of its growth: therefore, to promote this, the soil cannot be too highly enriched or too deeply cultivated. Cauliflower grows well in reasonably fertile, well-drained, moist soils with plenty of added organic matter. Mulch will help keep the ground cool and moist. The pH should be between 6.0 and 7.0 for optimum growth. A pH within this range will discourage clubroot disease and maximize nutrient availability.
Sowing and Culture.—The seed may be sown in a hot-bed in March, at the same time and in the same manner as early cabbages, and the plants set in the open ground late in May; or the seed may be sown in the open air in April or the beginning of May. Set cauliflower plants 24 inches apart in the row with 30 inches between rows.
As cauliflower plants begin to mature and the head or curd starts to form, gather together and tie the leaves over the curd with soft twine or tape. This “blanching” is required to ensure the curd will be white and tender at harvest. There are some ‘self-blanching’ types available where the leaves curl naturally over the head when grown in cool weather. However, some tying of the leaves may still be necessary.
Cauliflowers, after transplanting, require no particular skill during summer, and not much labor. The soil, however, must be kept free from weeds, and stirred with the hoe. As the plants increase in size, a little earth should be drawn around their roots from the middle of the row.
Principle insect and disease problems are the cabbage looper and imported cabbage worm, cabbage root maggot, aphids, flea beetles, blackleg, black rot, clubroot, and yellows. Contact your local Cooperative Extension office for identification and current control recommendations.
Harvesting.—Cauliflowers will be ready for harvest when the curd reaches the desired size but before the buds begin to separate, the flavor is at this stage much more delicate and agreeable. When harvesting Cauliflower, the stalks should be cut immediately under the lowest leaves, and the upper parts of these should be cut away near the flower-head.
It is not size that constitutes a good Cauliflower, but its fine, white, or creamy color, its compactness, and what is technically called its ‘curdy’ appearance, from its resemblance to the curd of milk in its preparation for cheese. When the flower begins to open, or when it is of a frosty or wart-like appearance, it is less desirable.
Uses.—The heads, or flowers, are considered one of the greatest of vegetable delicacies, and can be roasted, boiled, fried, steamed or eaten raw. The leaves are also edible, but are most often discarded.