Cauliflower, General

Brassica oleracea

Cauliflower is a biennial in the Brassicaceae family, and the same species as kale, cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi, collard greens, and Brussels sprouts; all these vegetables are technically different cultivars of one species. Other edible relatives of cauliflower include turnips, rutabagas, and radishes.

Cauliflower is commonly grown as a cool-season annual, and grows well from fall through spring in mild-winter areas of California. With cauliflower, we eat the immature flower buds or inflorescence. The edible head of the cauliflower is called the "curd," which is composed of many florets. Leaves and stems are also edible.

Cauliflower varieties

The hundreds of cauliflower varieties may be grouped in various ways. One is by season of cultivation: early varieties are grown from spring to fall in areas with mild summers; late varieties are grown from summer or fall through winter; and overwintering varieties are grown from fall through spring in areas with mild winters. There are four main genetic varietal families of cauliflower: Italian, the original strain from which others are believed to have been developed; Northern European early varieties; Northwest European late and overwintering varieties; and Asian tropical varieties. White cauliflower is most familiar to gardeners and cooks in North America, but varieties in many other colors are available including orange, green (also referred to as Romanesco), yellow, and purple.

The modern cultivated cauliflower was bred from the wild cabbage, a plant native to the Mediterranean and/or the region that is now Turkey, and has been cultivated for more than 2,000 years. It is exclusively an agricultural plant and does not grow natively or in the wild anywhere in the world. Cauliflower became fashionable in British and French courts in the 16th century, where it was considered an aristocratic vegetable. In a pithy and famous agricultural observation, Mark Twain wrote in Pudd'nhead Wilson, “Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.”

Sun/Shade Needs (5)
Watering Needs once Established (4)
Heat Tolerance (2)
Frost Tolerance (2)
Price (1)

Recommended Varieties/Cultivars

GardenZeus recommends Amazing as an open-pollinated heirloom variety that is heat tolerant. Other reliable open-pollinated varieties for cool weather include Goodman, heirloom-seeds" target="_blank"></a><a class="affiliate-title" href="http://www.shareasale.com/r.cfm?u=1108717&b=250954&m=28945&afftrack=&urllink=www.botanicalinterests.com%2Fproduct%2Fcauliflower-early-snowball-heirloom-seeds" target="_blank">Early Snowball</a><div class="affiliate-desc">Since 1888, this heirloom has been producing top quality heads.</div><a class="affiliate-cta" href="http://www.shareasale.com/r.cfm?u=1108717&b=250954&m=28945&afftrack=&urllink=www.botanicalinterests.com%2Fproduct%2Fcauliflower-early-snowball-heirloom-seeds" target="_blank">&raquo; Shop Now</a></div></div>">Early Snowball A (produces larger heads than most heirloom varieties), Snowball Y or heirloom-seeds" target="_blank"></a><a class="affiliate-title" href="http://www.shareasale.com/r.cfm?u=1108717&b=250954&m=28945&afftrack=&urllink=www.botanicalinterests.com%2Fproduct%2Fcauliflower-early-snowball-heirloom-seeds" target="_blank">Early Snowball</a><div class="affiliate-desc">Since 1888, this heirloom has been producing top quality heads.</div><a class="affiliate-cta" href="http://www.shareasale.com/r.cfm?u=1108717&b=250954&m=28945&afftrack=&urllink=www.botanicalinterests.com%2Fproduct%2Fcauliflower-early-snowball-heirloom-seeds" target="_blank">&raquo; Shop Now</a></div></div>">Early Snowball Y, and Romanesco (a beautiful green cauliflower).

Gardeners in warm inland valleys should consider a heat-tolerant hybrid, such as: Snow Crown, Snow King, Fremont, Denali, Casper, Sierra Madre, or Veronica Romanesco.

Purple varieties of cauliflower generally take longer to grow to maturity than white cauliflower but they also tend to be more nutritious, do not require leaves to be tied over the curd for blanching, maintain quality for a longer harvest window, and tend to store longer than the white varieties. For an open-pollinated heirloom variety, try Purple of Sicily.

White cauliflower
Romanesco cauliflower
Purple cauliflower

Gardeners in many portions of California will want to grow early varieties of cauliflower. Late varieties may require a longer cold season of up to 4 to 6 months.

Buying/Selection Tips

When buying starts, tap the pots, cells, or containers to loosen the rootballs and look at roots. Some visible roots, a freckling of white roots at the edges of rootballs, or a fine net of roots are acceptable; overgrown, circling, or layered roots at pot edges and ,bottoms are not, and may result in slow-growing, stunted, or underproductive plants. Inspect seedlings before purchasing to be sure that foliage is healthy and free of disease.

If you see cauliflower florets or tiny heads on cauliflower starts at nurseries, do not purchase them. They have already entered their reproductive cycle and early senescence. This is a condition called "buttoning." If cauliflower begins to produce inflorescence(s) while at a small size, it will never grow to a full-sized plant and the florets you see on the seedling may be your entire cauliflower harvest from that plant for the season.

Before buying transplants, research varieties and be sure that you are selecting an appropriate, preferably heat-tolerant variety for your zone (nurseries do not always offer suitable varieties for the local climate). Other characteristics that you may find desirable are self-blanching, which means that the cauliflower leaves tend to naturally fold down over the curds to protect them from sun so they form healthy, uniformly white heads; earliness, which generally means that the variety often forms curds within 55 to 60 days of germination; and disease-resistance. You might also want to try color varieties other than white.

Soil Needs/Tip

Cauliflower prefers loose, fertile, moist-but-well-drained soil. It tolerates a wider pH range than most vegetables, as low as 5.5 to above 7.0, ideally with an acidic pH in the range of 6.0 to 6.8, and with sufficient organic matter. It tolerates many soil types and textures, but does best in soils that retain moisture.

Cauliflower may suffer in new, uncultivated clay soils in your zone, especially those that are compacted, alkaline, or that have high salinity, but after beds have been cultivated for a few years, the resulting clay loam may be ideal for maintaining the constant moisture that cauliflower needs to produce large, healthy, full curds. If faced with tough clay soils in your yard or garden, you may do best growing cauliflower in raised beds or containers. Extra organic matter should be added to light or sandy soils before planting cauliflower to improve moisture retention.

Suitable Microclimate

Cauliflower performs best and produces the largest and best-quality curds in full sun with cool daytime temperatures of 60° to 70° F, and with consistently moist soil. When planting in fall, be sure to do so in an area that will remain sunny during short winter days.

Getting Started


Cauliflower produces well from transplants as long as they are healthy and not rootbound or overly mature. If you don't want to grow your own transplants indoors in late summer and/or early fall, purchased seedlings may your best option, as cauliflower has a moderately long seedling stage, and needs cool weather that is available in your zone only during a relatively short window, usually from about late November through February in your zone, to form good-quality curds.

When you have the time and interest, GardenZeus recommends starting your own seeds indoors beginning late August to late September and growing seedlings for 5 to 10 weeks indoors before transplanting outdoors beginning late October after temperatures have cooled for fall.

Cauliflower can also be seeded directly. It germinates best at warm temperatures of 70° to 85° F but needs cool temperatures from 60° to 70° F to produce the largest, fullest, and best-quality curds.

Watering Tips

Cauliflower is somewhat shallow-rooted and requires consistent moisture to produce large, tender heads. Water progressively more deeply and less frequently as plants mature, to a depth of at least 8 to 12 inches, to encourage deeper rooting. Under dry conditions or when soil dries out between waterings, cauliflower produces small or no curds, or curds that may become ricey, an undesirable condition in which curds begin to separate and become coarse and grainy, so that they look similar to rice. Avoid overwatering or keeping soil wet, which may encourage disease.

Improper heading

Cauliflower is somewhat shallow-rooted and requires consistent moisture to produce large, tender heads. Water progressively more deeply and less frequently as plants mature, to a depth of at least 8 to 12 inches, to encourage deeper rooting. Under dry conditions or when soil dries out between waterings, cauliflower produces small or no curds, or curds that may become ricey, an undesirable condition in which curds begin to separate and become coarse and grainy, so that they look similar to rice. Avoid overwatering or keeping soil wet, which may encourage disease.

Planting Method/Tips

Cauliflower can be downright fussy and difficult. Cauliflower produces the best curds in cool temperatures without a lot of fluctuation to either warm or cold temperatures.

Although cauliflower will remain vulnerable to both warm and cold extremes, it can be grown successfully. GardenZeus expert Darren Butler recommends that you give it a try, despite its reputation for difficulty. The following are his tips for succeeding with cauliflower in your zone:

1) Select appropriate varieties. If you have had poor results with cauliflower, try varieties that tolerate both heat and cold, such as the hybrid Casper.

2) Grow cauliflower in rich, fertile soil. Brassicas are moderate to heavy feeders and need sufficient macronutrients and micronutrients.

3) Timing: Start consider starting seeds indoors in ideal germinating conditions for later transplant outdoors during ideal growing conditions.

4) Transplanting tips: Transplant seedlings during the first 5 to 10 weeks while they are still growing actively; don't let them sit in their cells or small pots long enough that they become rootbound and senescent. Transplant cauliflower deeper than seedlings were in cells or pots to protect the root crown.

5) Start seeds and grow transplants in fertile, living, consistently moist soil that is loose and friable to at least 6 to 12 inches in depth. Grow in full sun during cool weather. Provide shade during unseasonable heat waves.

6) Plant cauliflower (and other brassicas) away from most other garden vegetables and most other plants in general. Brassicas do not form the relationships with the mycorrhizal fungi that are so helpful to many garden vegetables. The miraculous work of micorrhizae for garden vegetables that you may have heard or learned about might be at the expense of your cauliflower and other brassicas. Mycorrhizae may be capable of colonizing brassicas and "stealing" nitrogen from them to provide it to other garden vegetables. GardenZeus expert Darren Butler generally recommends that cauliflower and other brassicas be grown separately and at a distance of at least several feet from other vegetables, with 20 to 30 feet or more being ideal.

Single dig or double dig soil to loosen to a depth of at least 12 inches, remove stones and obstructions, and add compost or well-rotted organic matter shortly before planting cauliflower.

GardenZeus recommends planting cauliflower from purchased transplants, especially when attempting to grow it for the first time or if you have not succeeded previously with cauliflower, but it's critical to be sure that varieties are appropriate for your growing conditions (nurseries might not always offer appropriate varieties for their local areas) and to check that individual plants are not diseased, rootbound, or senescent.

When transplanting, spread roots of seedlings gently outward and downward to encourage a deep, spreading root system. While some experts recommend tearing off excess roots at transplanting, at GardenZeus, we prefer to minimize damage to seedling roots during transplant. Plant slightly deeper than the level at which starts were in packs or pots, and tamp soil gently. Water immediately after transplanting.

Start cauliflower seeds indoors about 4 to 8 weeks before transplants are needed. Starts may need to be transferred to larger pots or growing containers at least once before being transplanted outdoors, or germinate seeds from the beginning in larger 3-to-4-inch planting pots.

Broadcast seeds or plant individually directly outdoors during appropriately cool weather. Plant seeds about ¼-inch deep. While maturing cauliflower plants need temperatures in the 60s to form the best curds, seeds germinate best at warmer temperatures of 70° to 85° F, and they have a long seedling period of about 4 to 10 weeks. Seeds must be kept moist for germination, which may require misting or watering with a gentle, fine spray 2 or more times per day.

Spacing

When seeding directly, plant cauliflower seeds ¼ to ½ inch deep and space about 2 to 6 inches apart. Thin as needed to retain the healthiest and most vigorous plants, to an eventual final spacing of about 15 to 20 inches. Cook or eat thinnings fresh as young collard greens. Generally, when transplanting seedlings, cauliflower should be planted in final anticipated spacing.

Timelines

4 to 10 days or longer to seed germination.
5 to 10 weeks from germination to transplant.
55 to 100 days or longer from germination to harvest of full curds, depending upon variety and growing conditions.

Pollination Needs/Tips

Because we eat the curd of cauliflower, we are generally not concerned with pollination unless saving seeds. Cauliflower will cross readily with kale, cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi, collard greens, and Brussels sprouts, and is difficult for maintaining seed quality across multiple plant generations in the home garden.

Interplanting/Companion Planting

Cauliflower is traditionally planted with beans, peas, spinach, and celery. It may benefit from being planted near herbs such as sage, dill, and chamomile. GardenZeus expert Darren Butler generally disagrees with most claims about usefulness of companion planting with cauliflower and brassicas, and has found that he generally succeeds much better with brassicas when they are kept to themselves and planted at least several feet away from other garden vegetables and most other plants.

Nutrient/Amendment/Fertilization Needs/Tips

Cauliflower and other brassicas are moderate to heavy feeders, and need sufficient levels of many nutrients, such nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, and micronutrients or trace elements. GardenZeus recommends working compost and/or composted manure into soils before planting cauliflower, and growing cauliflower only once every 2 to 4 years in a given bed or garden area to allow the soil to recover between plantings. Brassicas may need surface dressing with compost or composted manure under mulch once or twice during the growing season. A soil test is recommended to determine nutrient levels prior to applying fertilizer.

GardenZeus recommends adding nitrogen in the form of diluted urea or a cup of chicken manure diluted in 4 gallons of water (half cup if fresh manure) and mixed thoroughly after seedlings are 2 to 3 inches tall and about once per month thereafter. Adding too much nitrogen may result in rapid growth; lush, high-carbohydrate leaves that attract insect infestation; and ricey curds.

Fish emulsion or seaweed extracts applied as drenches or foliar spray may be beneficial in infertile soils or those lacking micronutrients.

Mulching

Mulching is important for cauliflower to retain soil moisture and reduce frequency of watering. Use a half-inch of fine mulch for small starts under 4 inches in height; increase to 1 to 2 inches or more of fine to medium mulch after plants are 6 to 10 inches tall.

Pruning/Cutting Back/Pinching/Separating

Cauliflower does not need pruning, pinching, or separating. Some white varieties may require blanching to produce healthy, white curds, which involves folding and tying leaves over the curd to keep it out of direct sunlight. See GarenZeus section "Seasonal and Harvesting" for instructions on field blanching of cauliflower.

Propagating

From seed. GardenZeus generally recommends open-pollinated, untreated, organically grown seeds.

Container Gardening

Cauliflower is well-suited to containers; if you have had difficulty growing curds of good quality with cauliflower in the ground, try it in containers, where it may be easier to maintain rich soil and isolate plants to reduce possible nitrogen drain from micorrhizal fungi. GardenZeus recommends containers at least 12 inches deep, with deeper being better.

Smaller varieties of cauliflower may be best for containers (check size of mature plants when buying transplants or ordering seeds), but all varieties that are otherwise suited to your zone and growing conditions should do well in containers if they are of sufficient size.

The main drawback of growing cauliflower in containers is that it needs consistent soil moisture and will tend to dry out more frequently in containers or raised beds, so be sure to monitor as needed and provide sufficient water.

Seasonal Care

Gardeners who live in warm in land valleys in California will generally want to grow cauliflower in the fall through spring, while gardeners who live along the coast are often able to grow cauliflower from spring through fall, if not year around.

Many varieties of white cauliflower need to be field-blanched (also just called “blanched”) to produce the best-quality curds; purple, green, orange, and self-blanching varieties generally do not require blanching. Field blanching means blocking out sunlight, as opposed to kitchen blanching, which means boiling or cooking briefly. Unblanched white cauliflower may develop undesirable yellow-to-brown color, texture, and/or stronger or unpleasant flavor.


Blanching should begin when curds are about 2 to 3 inches in diameter, at the size of about an egg to a tennis ball. Blanch cauliflower when curds are as dry as possible, preferably at least 24 to 48 hours after overhead watering or rain, to avoid trapping moisture around curds, which can encourage disease and insect infestation. Gently press each plant's leaves over the curd. It's better to fold leaves and surround the curd than to pull them together and tie them vertically, as the latter may admit and trap moisture. Use enough leaves to block sunlight and keep out moisture, but allow some air circulation if possible and space for the curds to grow. Sometimes leaves can be tucked securely under each other, but these tend to slip open when you aren't watching, so GardenZeus recommends tying leaves loosely with cloth strips, twine, landscape tie tape, or rubber bands to allow room for growth. Use longer strips than you need to tie young so that you will have sufficient spare length in the ties as curds grow.

Loosen ties or retie escaped leaves as needed, and unwrap the blanching curds every 1 to 3 days to watch for pests and monitor growth of curds. Avoid overhead watering after tying leaves for blanching.

Curds are generally ready for harvest 1 to 2 weeks after blanching, but in warm to hot weather, curds may be ready in 4 to 7 days. In cold weather or with slow varieties, curds may require up to 3 weeks to mature after blanching.

How to Harvest

Harvest cauliflower curds at the expected mature size for the variety and while the curds are still firm and tight, or when curds reach about 6 inches in diameter. In poor soil and/or adverse environmental conditions, curds may be smaller than 6 inches, and in ideal conditions some varieties produce curds of 12 inches in diameter or larger. Generally curds are ready for harvest about 1 to 2 weeks after blanching or about the same period after curds reach the size of an egg, about 2 to 3 inches in diameter.

To harvest, cut the the whole curd from below with a sharp knife. Cut low enough to below the curd include a few leaves, which may help to protect the relatively delicate curds, and may extend shelf life by a few days.

Harvesting Tips

Keep consistent attention on your cauliflower plants after young curds form to harvest at the largest possible size while curds are still of good quality. Cauliflower has a relatively short window for harvest of curds while they are of best quality, especially during warm to hot weather. Some varieties stand longer in the garden than others without becoming ricey or coarse in texture.

GardenZeus expert Darren Butler recommends noting on a calendar or gardening log the date that curds reach 2 to 3 inches in diameter (in the size range of an egg to tennis ball), and monitoring plants daily from then until harvest. If in doubt about exact harvest time, err to the earlier side, within 1 to 2 weeks after noting curd formation.

When individual florets begin to separate in cauliflower curds, eating quality deteriorates. Harvest heads while still tight or immediately upon noticing floret separation, generally no longer than 2 to 3 weeks after blanching begins or after noting curd formation.

Unlike broccoli, many varieties of cauliflower do not form additional side shoots after the main curd is harvested. Before going to the effort of maintaining cauliflower in the hope of harvesting side shoots, know your variety or check to be sure that it produces side shoots.

What Commonly Goes Wrong

Buttoning is the premature formation of curds or small heads on immature plants. It can be caused by almost any environmental stress, most commonly from cold or warm temperatures, drought or water stress, poor soil, small planting containers, transplants that are too old or that are rootbound before transplanting, lack of nitrogen, insect attacks, disease, overcrowding or competition from weeds, and root disease (especially in wet soils). If a cauliflower plant begins to develop a curd prematurely, it can still be harvested and eaten but the plant's growth will be stunted and the curd will never grow to full normal size. To avoid buttoning, plan carefully to meet cauliflower's somewhat-difficult cultural needs. Grow healthy, young transplants during cool weather, water consistently, and eliminate competition from weeds.

Mysterious Non-Heading or Blind Bud: Sometimes even for experienced gardeners who seem to be doing everything right, cauliflower is fussy or does not form curds. The most common culprits are temperatures that are above about 75° F or below about 50° F, infertile or dead soil, and soil dryness or inconsistent watering. Other causes include feeding by birds, rodents, insects, rabbits, and deer; and mechanical or wind injury. A portion of plants in some seed strains and varieties of cauliflower may genetically be unable to form curds. If none of these seems a likely culprit or if all or a large number of your plants fail to head, the cauliflower variety may not be right for your growing conditions. A variety may head well elsewhere in California but not be suited to the unique conditions of your garden or yard. Try a different variety. If you have not tested your soil in the past year or two, have a soil analysis showing available levels of nutrients.

Ricey Curds: Riciness is an undesirable condition in which curds become coarse and grainy in texture as individual buds begin to separate, so that they look similar to rice. The most common causes are temperatures that are too hot (above 80° F), inconsistent soil moisture or soil dryness between waterings, curds becoming overmature or holding in the garden too long unharvested, rapid growth for any reason, and/or too much soil nitrogen. Somewhat ricey cauliflower is still edible, with people varying in how bothered they are by coarse texture and possible changes in flavor.

Separating florets generally indicate that you have waited too long to harvest.

Bracting (leaves between curd sections or protruding through curds): Usually caused by high temperatures, soil dryness, or too much soil nitrogen.

Yellowing or Browning: Direct sunlight on the curds of some white varieties will cause yellowing or browning. Many popular white cauliflower varieties are self-blanching, which means that leaves tend to naturally fold down over the curds to protect them from sun, so they produce healthy, uniformly white curds without extra work by the gardener. Self-blanching may be variable and it may be necessary to blanch manually even with self-blanching varieties. Consider growing varieties whose curds don't yellow in direct sun. Browning of curds may also be caused by boron deficiency in soil, which is usually also accompanied by browned and/or distorted leaves; or may be secondary decay that results after environmental stress such as a period of soil dryness, frost or freezing, or hot temperatures.

Unseasonable Planting and Hot Weather: Cauliflower is a cool-season crop. Cauliflower suffers at temperatures above 75° to 80° F. Temperatures above 80° F may cause a range of issues including riciness, buttoning, stunting or small leaves, and small or no curds.

Slow growth, lack of vigor, small plants, production of few or small roots or leaves, dried out or folded leaves, yellowing leaves on immature plants: These common symptoms may result from soil pH that is too high or too low, compacted soil, alkaline soil, overwatering, underwatering, irregular watering, poor drainage, cold or hot weather, lack of soil nitrogen, other soil nutrient deficiencies, planting rootbound or senescent transplants, or a combination of these. May also be the result of wind or other environmental and abiotic factors.

Brown and dead leaf tips or edges: Burned leaf tips often result from over fertilizing, sodic soils, animal urine, over application of manure or urea, or soluble salts in soils.

Not a Problem

Cauliflower curds are somewhat delicate and are easily bruised. While this is an issue for commercial produce, it is not so much an issue in the home garden. Bruising does not affect taste, although it may shorten shelf life, and bruised curds are still edible. Surface decay on cauliflower after environmental damage, such as from frost or direct sunlight, usually is very shallow and can be cleaned off so that the majority of the curd can still be eaten. Slightly yellowed and browned curds may lose sweetness but also remain edible.

Common Diseases

Insect and vertebrate feeding is generally more often a problem for cauliflower in home gardens than diseases. Bacterial soft rot may cause curds to soften or rot, and various soil fungi and similar pathogens can cause roots rots. These issues normally occur in wet soils. Most disease problems with cauliflower can be prevented by using good cultural practices: encouraging living soil; rotating crops and avoiding planting brassicas repeatedly in the same beds; and selecting appropriate varieties for your growing conditions.

Common Pests

With as hard as it can be to get some human children to eat cauliflower and other brassicas, you might think that it would be less subject to pest infestation. Alas, juvenile and adult bugs, birds, and mammal pests are not at all finicky about eating cauliflower, and they recognize a good nutritious meal when they see it.

Aphids and whiteflies occur more often in spring or during warm weather than from fall through winter. They can sometimes be removed with a strong stream of water, or washed off leaves with a cloth or rag before plants become fully infested. Aphids are often associated with Argentinian ant infestations; ants move the aphids to uninfested leaves and plants, and fight off predatory insects in return for harvesting the honeydew that aphids excrete. Control the ants using a boric-acid ant bait.

Other common pests of cauliflower include flea beetles, cabbage loopers, armyworms, other caterpillars, cabbage maggots or root maggots, slugs and snails, nematodes, bagrada bugs, birds, mice, rats, rabbits, and deer.

Special Care

Avoid planting brassicas repeatedly in the same soil; allowing a year or two before replanting cauliflower or any of its relatives, such as kale, cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, turnips, rutabagas, and radishes.

If your cauliflower plants fail to form curds, or young curds disappear, the plants may be subject to feeding by birds or mammals. You may need to cover plants with netting or otherwise provide physical exclusion.

Use caution when working around cauliflower plants; they are easily injured, and various issues may result from mechanical injury, including to roots when weeding.

If cauliflower produces digestive challenges, try blanching or cooking, and chew thoroughly.

Special Info

Romanesco cauliflower has GardenZeus expert Darren Butler's vote for the most amazingly beautiful vegetable ever. This is saying a lot, because Darren finds many vegetables to be extraordinarily beautiful. Romanesco also receives Darren's Vegetable From Outer Space Award, which it shares with bitter melon, kiwano melon, Brussels sprouts, and artichoke (especially when in full bloom). Romanesco is a vision of plant geometry, like a cross between regular cauliflower and an alien form of fractal coral.

Cooking will generally cause colored cauliflower to fade or shift in color; some varieties resist color change more than others.

As of April, 2014 the world-record cauliflower plant weighed 60 pounds and was about 6 feet across, grown by Peter Glazebrook of the UK. These measurements included the plant's leaves. There is hope for those of us who struggle to produce anything but stunted plants with tiny curds!

Sustainable Landscaping Tip

Even the most experienced gardeners have difficulties from time to time with producing a good cauliflower harvest in your zone; there isn't much that can be done about the occasional extended cold periods or heat waves. Consider letting your ricey, buttoned, and otherwise undesirably curded cauliflower go into bloom. While cauliflower is not a good candidate for naturalizing, it can feed beneficial insects and delight you with small, attractive blooms as a compensation prize after poor curd formation.

Advanced Tip

GardenZeus expert Darren Butler recommends planting cauliflower and other brassicas away from the rest of your vegetables and other plants. Micorrhizal fungi may capable of "stealing" nutrients such as nitrogen from brassicas to share them with their host plants. Darren has often found that many mysterious issues with stunting, heading, and plant health for broccoli, cauliflower, and other brassicas go away when the plants are isolated at a distance of several feet or more from other plants.

Preservation, Storage, and Use

Cauliflower is more perishable than most vegetables and is best cooked or eaten fresh, within a few days at most. It can be stored in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for about a week, and in some cases longer if you're willing to trim away small areas of decay. Curds can be frozen or pickled for long-term storage.

Commercial storage of cauliflower is at 32° F with high humidity; under these conditions, cauliflower will last for 3 to 4 weeks.

Cauliflower is sensitive to ethylene gas, so when placing your cauliflower in your refrigerator, take care to place it far away from your ethylene-producing fruit.

Cauliflower is versatile, with a range of uses both raw and cooked, and can be steamed, baked, roasted, stir-fried, sautéed, boiled, or pickled; and it can be cooked or served with whatever your happy delicious sauce happens to be. Cauliflower gratin makes a particularly elegant and delicious accompaniment to roast chicken.

With so much obsession about the cauliflower's curd, many gardeners and cooks overlook cauliflower's edible leaves and stems. GardenZeus expert Darren Butler generally prefers eating the stalks and leaves of cauliflower and broccoli, especially as raw, to eating the heads. Garden connoisseurs and gourmet cooks prize the small leaves that grow around the curd of the cauliflower (inside the larger leaves that protect the curd from the sun) for their sweetness and tenderness. Cauliflower leaves generally have a stronger taste than florets.

Cauliflower is nutritious and rich in antioxidants. It is an excellent source of vitamins B, C, and K; and minerals, such as manganese, copper, iron, calcium and potassium.

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