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Cauliflower

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cauliflower_art.jpgCauliflower is a leafy green vegetable belonging to the cruciferous family Brassicaceae. It is an annual plant that reproduces by seed, with its name derived from Latin caulis (cabbage) and flower.

Varieties and types:

Large Head types – These are the most common garden varieties. Look for Cauliflower ‘All Year’ hybrid – it’s the easiest large variety to go.

Small head – Try ‘Snowball’. This variety will happily grow in a container and is only about 10cm in diameter.

Other types may be based on size, hybrid type or colour and include Baby cauliflower, Purple cauliflower and Broccoflower (hybrid of broccoli and cauliflower).

When, where and how to plant:

Cauliflower can be grown all year round in many areas. Like the cabbage, it likes rich soil and plenty of water.

Choose a position in full sun. Prepare ground well prior to planting or sowing seeds. Add compost and blend in well.

You can either buy seedlings or sow your own seeds. When you are sowing seeds, you will find it germinates best during spring and autumn. All the varieties should be set out in rows and spaced 60-100cm apart.

Weeds need to be kept down. Avoid using fertiliser that is high in nitrogen on your cauliflowers as it causes more leaf growth.

Growing guide:

Water well over dry periods. Once seedlings appear or are planted, apply slug and snail bait around the plants. Apply liquid fertiliser each month.

Aphids and white butterflies can be a problem - spray with a good bug spray or insecticide.

One of the keys to success with cauliflower is consistency of care. You can break a leaf over the head to prevent the curd becoming discoloured. Wrapping the foliage around the head while it’s forming will keep the heads white. It can add as a frost protection over winter months too and protect the crop from sun damage as well.

Harvest:

Crop should be ready in 2-3 months from planting.

Harvest when the heads have formed and are of a reasonable size. Use a sharp knife and remove the hard from the stalk. Remove the plant from the ground and add to your compost.

How to use:

The flavour of a crisp white cauliflower is hard to match. It can be roasted, boiled, fried, steamed or eaten raw.

Use as a vegetable for any meal. Ideal in stir-fries, soups and salads. The leaves can be used in the same way as the flower. Cauliflower freezes well for up to 6 months

Cauliflower is low in fat and high in dietary fibre, folate, water and vitamin C. A high intake of cauliflower has been found to reduce the risk of aggressive prostate cancer.