Monday, August 29, 2011

cauliflower cultivation

Cauliflower is one of several vegetables in the species Brassica oleracea, in the family Brassicaceae. It is an

annual plant that reproduces by seed. Typically, only the head (the white curd) of aborted floral meristems is eaten, while the stalk and surrounding thick, green leaves are used in vegetable broth or discarded.
                                            cauliflower seeds
Its name is from Latin caulis (cabbage) and flower, an acknowledgment of its unusual place among a family of food plants which normally produces only leafy greens for eating. Brassica oleracea also includes cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, and collard greens, though they are of different cultivar groups.

For such a highly modified plant, cauliflower has a long history. François Pierre La Varenne employed chouxfleurs in Le cuisinier françois. They had been introduced to France from Genoa in the 16th century, and

are featured in Olivier de Serres' Théâtre de l'agriculture (1600), as cauli-fiori "as the Italians call it, which are still rather rare in France; they hold an honorable place in the garden because of their delicacy", but they did
               cauliflower seesling with drift irrigation system
not commonly appear on grand tables until the time of Louis XIV.Contents

How to grow cauliflower

Cauliflower is a cool-season vegetable and is more difficult to grow than other members of the cabbage family.
Recommended VarietiesOpen-Pollinated

Self-Blanche (71 days to harvest; 7 inch heads with excellent leaf protection; does not need tying, especially in fall crops)

Snowball Y Improved (68 days, 6 inch heads protected by heavy leaf cover)


Andes (68 days, most adaptable self-blanching type)

Candid Charm (65 days, large head, excellent protection)

Serrano (70 days; 6 to 7 inch heads; excellent leaf cover, head quality)

Snow Crown (60 days; resistant to yellows; tolerant of heat, cold)

Snow Grace (65 days, 8 inch head, tight curd, improved Snow Crown type)

Snow King
(50 days; 8 to 9 inch heads; very early; heat tolerant)

White Corona (30 days; 3 to 4 inch heads; exceptionally early; good for small gardens and short season)


Violet Queen Hybrid (70 days, purple head, needs no blanching, turns green when cooked).


Chartreuse Hybrid II  
(62 days; no tying; greenish yellow curd)

Green Goddess Hybrid (65 days, no tying; lime green, good taste, easy to grow).

When To Plant

Cauliflower is best started from transplants for both spring and fall crops. Do not transplant sooner than 2 to 3 weeks before the average frost-free date in the spring. Cauliflower is more sensitive to the cold than its cabbage-family relatives. It is important to start cauliflower early enough that it matures before the heat of the summer but not so early that it is injured by the cold. In some seasons, that compromise may be almost impossible to achieve. Transplant autumn cauliflower about the same time as fall cabbage. Use starter fertilizer when transplanting. Start the transplants so that they grow actively until transplanting and never cease growth. Always use young, active transplants. Never buy stunted plants started in flats and held too long before transplanting; results with inferior plants are almost always disappointing.

Spacing & Depth

Space plants 18 to 24 inches apart in the row. Use the wider spacing for fall plantings.


Cauliflower plants should be kept growing vigorously from the seedling stage through harvest. Any interruption (extreme cold, heat, drought or plant damage) can abort development of the edible portion. Large plants that never develop a head are extremely disappointing. Cauliflower must have a consistent and ample supply of soil moisture. Side-dress nitrogen fertilizer when the plants are half grown.

When the head begins to form (shows 2 to 3 inches of white curd at the growing point), it is ready to blanch. Tie the outer leaves together over the center of the plant to protect the had from sunburn and to keep it from turning green and developing an off-flavor. The variety Self-Blanche is named for its natural tendency to curl its leaves over its head. Several other varieties possess this trait, especially when maturing in the fall. Under cool conditions, these varieties blanch very well and tying is unnecessary.
Botanical varieties

Cauliflower and broccoli are the same species and have very similar structures, though cauliflower replaces the green flower buds with a white inflorescence meristem.

Major groups

There are four major groups of cauliflower.


Diverse in appearance, and biennial and annual in type, this group includes :
cauliflower white
 -white                   - Romanesco                        - various green
- purple                 - brown                                 -yellow

This type is the ancestral form from which the others were derived.

Northwest European biennial

Used in Europe for winter and early spring harvest, this was developed in France in the 19th century, and includes the old cultivars Roscoff and Angers .

Northern European annuals 

Used in Europe and North America for summer and fall harvest, it was developed in Germany in the 18th

century, and includes old cultivars Erfurt and Snowball.

A tropical cauliflower used in China and India, it was developed in India during the 19th century from the now-abandoned Cornish type, and includes old varieties Early Patna and Early Benaras.


A comprehensive list of varieties is maintained at North Carolina State University. Traditional varieties include:

 -'Hybrid White',
 -'Super Snowball',

-'Snow Crown',

 -Candid Charm',

 -'Snow White' and
 -'Snow Grace'.

Self-blanching varieties are 'Self Blanche', 'Early Tuscan' and 'Late Tuscan'.

Heirloom varieties include 'All the Year Round', 'Early Pearl', 'Early Snowball', 'Igloo', 'Violetta Italia' and 'Walcheren Winter'.

Commercial varieties include 'Fremont', 'Igloo' and 'Snow Crown'.

White -   White cauliflower is the most common colour of cauliflower.

Orange  - Orange cauliflower (B. oleracea L. var. botrytis) contains 25 times the level of vitamin A of white varieties. This trait came from a natural mutant found in a cauliflower field in Canada. Cultivars include 'Cheddar' and 'Orange Bouquet'.

Green  - Green cauliflower of the B. oleracea botrytis group, is sometimes called broccoflower. It is available both with the normal curd shape and a variant spiky curd called Romanesco broccoli. Both types have been commercially available in the U.S. and Europe since the early 1990s. Green-curded varieties include

'Alverda', 'Green Goddess' and 'Vorda'. Romanesco varieties include 'Minaret' and 'Veronica'.

Purple  - Purple color in cauliflower is caused by the presence of the antioxidant group anthocyanins, which

can also be found in red cabbage and red wine. Varieties include 'Graffiti' and 'Purple Cape'. In Great Britain

and southern Italy, a broccoli with tiny flower buds is sold as a vegetable under the name "purple cauliflower".

It is not the same as standard cauliflower with a purple curd.

Orange cauliflower


Cauliflower, raw (edible parts)Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 103 kJ (25 kcal)
Carbohydrates 5 g
- Sugars 2.4 g
- Dietary fiber 2.5 g
Fat 0 g
Protein 2 g
Thiamine (Vit. B1) 0.057 mg (5%)
Riboflavin (Vit. B2) 0.063 mg (5%)
Niacin (Vit. B3) 0.53 mg (4%)
Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.65 mg (13%)
Vitamin B6 0.22 mg (17%)
Folate (Vit. B9) 57 μg (14%)
Vitamin C 46 mg (55%)
Vitamin K 15.5 μg (15%)
Calcium 22 mg (2%)
Iron 0.44 mg (3%)
Magnesium 15 mg (4%)
Phosphorus 44 mg (6%)
Potassium 300 mg (6%)
Zinc 0.28 mg (3%)

Cauliflower is low in fat, but high in dietary fiber, folate, water, and vitamin C, possessing a high nutritional density.

Cauliflower contains several phytochemicals, common in the cabbage family, that may be beneficial to human health.

Sulforaphane, a compound released when cauliflower is chopped or chewed, may protect against cancer.

Other glucosinolates

Indole-3-carbinol, a chemical that enhances DNA repair, and acts as an estrogen antagonist, slowing the growth of cancer cells.

Boiling reduces the levels of these compounds, with losses of 20–30% after five minutes, 40–50% after ten minutes, and 75% after thirty minutes. However, other preparation methods, such as steaming, microwaving, and stir frying, had no significant effect on the compounds.

A high intake of cauliflower has been associated with reduced risk of aggressive prostate cancer.


Aloo gobi, an Indian dish prepared with cauliflower and potato

Cauliflower can be roasted, boiled, fried, steamed or eaten raw. Steaming or microwaving better preserves anticancer compounds than boiling. When cooking, the outer leaves and thick stalks are removed, leaving only the florets. The leaves are also edible, but are most often discarded.The florets should be broken into

similar-sized pieces so they are cooked evenly. After eight minutes of steaming, or five minutes of boiling, the florets should be soft, but not mushy (depending on size). Stirring while cooking can break the florets into smaller, uneven pieces. Cauliflower is often served with a cheese sauce, as in the dish cauliflower cheese.

Low carbohydrate dieters can use cauliflower as a reasonable substitute for potatoes; while they can produce a similar texture, or mouth feel, they lack the starch of potatoes.

Cauliflower - Pest Control

Mealy Aphids are a serious pest, weakening your cauliflower plants and introducing viruses which further weaken plants. Talk with your garden centre for what might be effective. Eggs of the Large White butterfly. Caterpillars can defoliate a plant quickly so watch out for them. Inspect the underside of the leaves for clusters and squish them. Practice your tennis strokes when the butterfly is about Caterpillar of the Small White butterfly. Defoliates plants quickly, watch out for them. Pick off and destroy, use a nematode spray. Eggs are laid under leaves in a random way, not in clusters, nor are they brightly coloured.
                  caterpillar in cauliflower leaves
Knowing how to grow cauliflower to minimise pest problems will mean following some sort of crop rotation plan.
caterpillar eggs in cauliflower leaves

This simply means not growing vegetables of the same family in the same piece of land year after encourages pest build up in the soil. For cauliflower this means - broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, turnip, brussels sprouts.

Whether you are a seasoned vegetable grower or are just starting to learn how to grow cauliflower or any vegetable - pests and diseases don`t care... so get to know your enemy.

Cabbage root fly can be a problem so use protective discs at the base of the cauliflower plants as they lay their eggs in the soil at this point.

These can be made from old bits of hessian backed carpet, underlay or roofing felt - use your imagination.
root fly larvae

Also cover with gardening fleece when the plants are young.
club root disease

Fleece is a great friend to the gardener, it allows rain and light through but insulates against frost and deters pests.
gardening fleece roll

Keep a watchfull eye for the appearance of caterpillars as left unattended they will devastate your cauliflower plants.
plants rapped in gardening fleece

They feed on the underside of the leaves and the best answer is to just pick them off and  squish them. They also lay their eggs there too so look for yellow clusters and  squish them. If you you have not the time to keep squishing , then use a nematode spray.
seedlings covered by gardening fleece

It uses nematodes to provide an environmentally safe and efficient treatment which can be watered straight onto edible plants. Use `Just Caterpillar` once they are seen on the plant, preferably whilst they are still small, and the nematodes will quickly seek out the caterpillar and kill it.

Club root is a fungus and all brassicas (thats the family umberalla for cauliflower along with broccoli,
club root disease

cabbage, kohlrabi, turnip, brussels sprouts) can be affected. The roots become stubby and swollen. Leaves
cauliflower plants affected by club root sisease

become yellow and wilt causing severe stunting of growth. This causes swelling of the roots and reduces the
club root affected cauliflower plant

flow of water and nutrients to the plant.

Spores are produced and can survive in the soil for up to five years.
mealy aphid in cauliflower leaves

Prevent club root by practicing crop rotation and take extreme care if you buy in seedlings from outside as this is often the way this fungus is introduced. Reducing the acidity of the soil by adding lime will help.

Aphids can be a serious pest by weakening your cauliflower plants and introducing viruses. Try planting Marigolds or Tagetes plants among the crop.

They attract beneficial insects like hover flies and lady birds which feed on the aphids and will help reduce the infestation - yet another aspect of learning how to grow cauliflower is to understand how nature can be used to benefit your environment.

Flea Beatles are tiny beetles that can make sieves out of your brassica leaves. When you touch the
flea beatles in cauliflower plants

brussel sprout leaves they ping off just like regular fleas, only these won't bite you! To deter them:
Use horticultural fleece placed over your brussels sprouts, as soon as you transplant them outside; a floating row cover.
cauliflower leaves eaten by flea beatle

Lightly hoe over the soil regularly to destroy eggs and larvae and expose them to predators.

Give your plants a midday shower with the hose (not in full sun though), as they're most active then and they don`t like wet conditions.

Try `Companion Planting`, to attract the beneficial insects.

Cauliflower - Harvesting

The cauliflower head's curd develops rapidly under proper growing conditions. It grows 6 to 8 inches in diameter and is ready to harvest within 7 to 12 days after blanching begins. The mature heads should be compact, firm and white. Harvest the heads by cutting the main stem. Leave a few green outer leaves attached to protect the heads. Cut the heads before they become overmature and develop a coarse, "ricey" appearance. Once individual florets can be seen, quality deteriorates rapidly. Because cauliflower does not ordinarily develop side shoots, plants may be disposed of or composted after heads are harvested.

It is best to begin cutting some of the heads whilst they are still fairly small. Waiting for them all to mature will mean you will have a glut of cauliflower curds.
growing cauliflower

If the individual florets which make up the head or curd of the plant begin to sperate then you have waited too long to harvest it.

It is possible to keep the heads up to two or three weeks after harvesting and before being used. Lift the cauliflower plant, shake the soil off the roots and hang upside down in a cool place. Spray them regularly with water.

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