The European native Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea) is part of the cabbage family, and Mark Twain once referred to it as “a cabbage with a college education.” However, there’s much more to this vegetable than just being a fancy cabbage.
With its distinct nuttiness and flavor, cauliflower – just like tomatoes – is an excellent addition to any dish. The heads, which are formed from undeveloped flower buds, are the main edible part of the plant. Although growing cauliflower can be a bit tricky due to its sensitivity to temperature changes, it can be a rewarding addition to your garden with a little bit of TLC. The leaves and stem of cauliflower are also edible, and the plant – similarly to garlic – is ready to harvest in just two to three months from planting.
Common Cauliflower varieties:
- Attribute Hybrid
- Fioretto 60
- Cheddar Hybrid
- Early White Hybrid
- Sicilian Violet
Cauliflower plant care can be tricky for beginner gardeners because this plant is especially sensitive to temperature changes. Here are the key things to keep in mind:
- Soil: the soil needs to be rich in organic matter with a pH between 6.5 and 7.5 and well-draining, but it also needs consistent moisture to prevent buttoning.
- Water: For healthy cauliflower, consistent moisture is important as heads turn bitter without enough water. A weekly watering of 1 to 2 inches, soaking 6 to 8 inches into the soil, is recommended to avoid dry soil that may cause buds to open slightly and heads to form “ricey” instead of tight curds.
- Temperature: this plant thrives in cool weather but cannot tolerate frost and struggles in temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. To keep the soil cool and retain moisture, mulching the plants at planting time is recommended.
- Light: Although these plants require full sun, providing partial afternoon shade in hot climates can help avoid sun scorch.
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To propagate cauliflower, start by planting seeds indoors about 4 to 6 weeks prior to the average last frost date, using biodegradable pots to avoid root disturbance. Keep the soil moist and the seeds warm at around 80 degrees Fahrenheit for faster sprouting. Harden off your transplants before planting them in the garden, spacing them about 18 to 24 inches apart with rows spaced 30 inches apart to provide sufficient room for the outer leaves.
- Cabbage Moths
- Cabbage Whiteflies
- Cabbage Loopers
- Cross-Striped Cabbage Worms
- Cabbage Root Maggots
- Cabbage White Butterflies
- Flea Beetles
Frequently Asked Questions
It typically takes two to three months to grow from planting to harvest, depending on the specific variety and growing conditions.
How many heads of cauliflower do you get from one plant?
Generally, you can expect one head of cauliflower per plant. However, this can vary depending on the specific variety, growing conditions, and plant size. Some varieties may produce multiple smaller heads, known as side-shoots, after the main head is harvested.
Is cauliflower a flower or bud?
The part of cauliflower usually eaten and referred to as the “head” is a cluster of undeveloped flower buds, also known as curds. The curds are tightly packed and look like a single head, but they are actually multiple flower buds that have not yet opened. So, cauliflower can be considered both a flower and a bud.
How do I know when cauliflower is ready to pick?
The head should be firm and dense, with tight, compact curds. It should be white (or the color of the specific variety), without any discoloration or blemishes.
Is cauliflower toxic to pets?
Thankfully, cauliflower is non-toxic to pets.