Kitchen Garden Seeds

Crazy Over Cauliflower

Dating back centuries, this Brassica darling was lovingly called chouxfleurs in France and cauli-fiori in Italy during the 17th century. Botanically known as Brassica oleracea, its hefty, buxom head is comprised of non-flowering, densely compacted curds that are low in fat and carbohydrates, and high in dietary fiber. Cauliflower fortifies our bodies with anti-cancer compounds, vitamins A and C, calcium, immune system boosters and DNA repairers. Health-magic in every tasty bite. Other members of the Brassicaceae family include Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Collard Greens and Kale.

Best started indoors, Cauliflower seedlings can be transplanted into the garden as soon as the threat of spring frost has passed for late summer harvest, and in late summer for fall harvest: a spectacularly anticipated second show. In 65 to 85 days, depending on the variety, they'll be flaunting their shapely forms, velvety, blue-green leaves and picture-perfect flower heads. Harvest just one of their perfect heads and you are just minutes away from vegetable heaven. Steamed, blanched, roasted or stir-fried (never boiled), each bite drives home the simple truth that nothing tastes better than homegrown.

Heady Choices
Cauliflowers have a big Botticelli orbiness in the process of sensuous undress as their waxy, thick emerald leaves part to reveal burgeoning heads of tightly compressed orange-yellow or purple florets. More shy bright-white varieties, like Amazing Cauliflower, remain secretively cloaked in their self-blanching foliage, waiting to be unwrapped and admired before being appreciatively devoured.

We offer you Purple of Sicily , a sweet Italian heirloom that is really delicious, not just a novelty grown for its brilliant purple color. High-heat and frost-tolerant, self-blanching Amazing Cauliflower is bright white with a deep dome. Orange Sunset is a magical French hybrid that is butter-yellow when raw, and deep apricot-orange when cooked. It prefers to be transplanted into the garden in late summer for fall harvest due to its aversion to high heat.

Our Rainbow Cauliflower Mixture is a unique mix that includes the complete Cauliflower color spectrum of white, orange-yellow, purple and lime-green (we've added Verdi Cauliflower into the mix). It's a perfect mixture for small gardens that want it all, and experimental young garden wizards.

Neither a true Cauliflower or true Broccoli, Veronica Romanesco Broccoflower is a dramatic, other-worldly seductress with complex, symmetrical heads comprised of lime-green florets that spiral into intricate peaks. If your garden or dinner table needs a conversational pick-me-up, Veronica is the perfect house guest.

Grow Your Own Perfect Cauliflower
Cauliflower is so big, so downright gorgeous and impressive that some people may think that it's difficult to grow successfully. But not so! Fertile soil, consistent temperatures and even soil moisture are all that's required to grow picture-perfect Cauliflower.

Start Cauliflower seed indoors under lights or in a greenhouse. Sow the seed in 6-packs filled with moist seed starting mix, about eight weeks before your spring Frost-Free Date. Once the seeds have sprouted, give them 12 to 15 hours of bright light each day, consistent moisture and good ventilation. (Plants grown on a windowsill get leggy and flop over as they stretch for the light: normal daylight length and intensity is insufficient no matter how bright the spot.) Don't let them get thirsty or hungry. Once the seedlings have their first true leaves feed them once a week with a diluted liquid fertilizer. Don't let Cauliflower seedlings become rootbound, they won't form proper heads, when there are 4 true leaves, transplant the strongest seedlings into 4-inch individual pots. Before transplanting your seedlings into the garden, harden them off by putting them outdoors in a sheltered location for a few hours each day and bringing them in at night. Do this for a week to 10 days, gradually lengthening the time outdoors. This will help them to avoid transplant shock and to thrive. Though mature Cauliflower plants will tolerate fall frost, younger plants dislike temperature swings, so no matter how warm you think it may be, hold off transplanting until after your spring Frost-Free Date. To find the Frost-Free Date for your garden, GO HERE and use the nifty chart provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Select your State from the pull down menu to generate a PDF file with a list of local NOAA data collection sites.

Feed and Water Well
Cauliflower is a heavy feeder and prefers neutral pH soil. If your soil is too acidic or too alkaline, amend it to 6.5 to 6.8 pH as far ahead of time as possible. Plant the seedlings in fertile, well-draining soil, to which you have added compost, well-rotted manure and/or slow-release organic fertilizer. Water well after planting. Keep the soil moist by mulching around the plants. A mature Cauliflower plant gets to be about 18" wide, so give them ample elbow room. You can cover the seedlings with garden fabric to protect them from flea beetles and cabbageworms~just make sure to remove it when daytime temperatures rise above 80 degrees F.

Extreme heat or drought can cause Cauliflower plants to produce smaller than normal heads. Water deeply once a week when dry. Most modern varieties of Cauliflower are self-blanching, which means the leaves do a good job of shielding the delicate heads from too much sun. Keep an eye on the plants as the heads begin to mature~if the leaves are not providing adequate protection, use twine to pull a few of the center leaves together so they shade the head. Harvest Cauliflower when the buds are still tightly closed, using a sharp knife to cut the head from the stem. Each Cauliflower plant produces just one head, so after harvesting, simply remove the entire plant.

Two Stretch Harvests
Another nice thing about Cauliflower is that each variety matures at slightly different rates to stretch out the harvest season without any scheming on your part. Depending on where you live, spring-planted Cauliflower is usually ready to harvest in midsummer, about 10 weeks after planting. With little effort, you can start another batch of seedlings indoors about ten weeks before your First Fall-Frost for transplant into the garden for a second fall crop. Simply enrich the soil with compost and fertilizer, and pop in the second generation of seedlings after hardening them off.

So Good for You, Delicious in So Many Recipes
Our biggest problem come Cauliflower harvest is deciding which of our favorite recipes to make. A good problem to have.

For a super-simple soup (don't tell anyone it is low-calorie), sauté Cauliflower florets with onions, add a diced potato and cover in chicken broth. Simmer covered for 15 to 20 minutes, puree with an immersion blender and add salt, pepper and grated nutmeg to taste. For a more caloric soup, try Jan's Cream of Cauliflower Soup. Make our Saucy Cauliflower Spread for one-of-a-kind sandwiches. Bake steamed Cauliflower in a soul-warming, white cheese sauce with freshly grated nutmeg or curry, or create our shamefully simple Garlic Mashed Cauliflower and Celeriac. For a special treat, make Jan's comforting Cauliflower Risotto. On a weekday night, nothing beats roasted, caramelized Cauliflower florets jazzed with grated parmesan~check out our easy Roasted Vegetable Melange. Good health and good eating in every bite with special magic, because you've grown it yourself.