Cauliflower is a member of the brassica family, which also includes kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts and broccoli. It has a compact head composed of undeveloped flower buds called a curd that is high in vitamins and minerals, and packed full of fiber, anti-oxidants and phytochemicals.
Cauliflower plants enjoy cooler climates and do not do well in excessively hot or cold weather—if it’s too hot, the head won’t mature properly and if it’s too cold, your cauliflower will bolt quickly. Try to keep the temperature consistent—a range of between 55 and 70°F is perfect—with about six hours of direct sunlight.
Outdoor Hydro Systems
Cauliflower is a great outdoor crop for mild climates, keeping the above-mentioned temperature conditions in mind. You could easily grow cauliflower in a basic outdoor hydro set-up if you’re short on indoor space. They’re best grown as a fall harvest crop, so start your seeds indoors in early summer.
Cauliflower starts its life out as a loose head, tightening as it grows. Most varieties take 75-90 days to mature from planting. If you’re growing the white variety, tie the outer leaves together over the head when it is about 2-3 in. in diameter. This procedure is known as blanching. For ultimate nutrient uptake, keep your pH between 5.5 and 6.5.
Cauliflower plants have large root systems, so make sure you have adequate space for root development and growth. These plants love moisture, so container growing suits them, just make sure you opt for a deep tub to contain the large root balls.
Many of the cauliflower seeds we buy are hybrids, so if you want to save seed, ensure you buy seeds labelled as open-pollinated, otherwise there is no guarantee that the plant you grow will produce what you’re expecting. The seeds develop in a small, elongated pod. Once the pod turns brown, you can crack it open and save the seeds in a paper bag or envelope in a dry, dark place. Generally, the easiest way to start a cauliflower plant is from seed.
Cauliflowers are ready for harvest 7-12 days after blanching. Cut the cauliflower at the base, leaving a single outer layer of leaves behind. The remainder of the leaves should stay on the cauliflower to protect it. If the heads are beginning to open up, go ahead and harvest them, as they won’t tighten up again.
Go for a Splash of Color
Colored cauliflower is a great way to add interest to your next meal. Purple cauliflower gets it color from the presence of the antioxidant anthocyanin, which is also found in red wine, red onions and red cabbage.
Orange cauliflower gets it glow from a genetic mutation that allows it to hold more beta-carotene. It was first discovered in the ’70s in Canada, but it took years of cross-breeding before it was more widely available. Orange cauliflower is higher in vitamin A than its white cousin.
Types of Cauliflower
- Snow Crown
- Candid Charm
- Orange Burst