C is for Cauliflower

Cauliflower is the best surprise to find beneath huge leaves.

Cauliflower is the best surprise to find beneath huge leaves.

I love cauliflower! Surprisingly enough, so does the kid. I love it the most because of how long it lasts in the frig. It’s my go-to vegetable on quick dinner nights. I cut off several chunks, put them in a four-cup glass measuring cup with water, and microwave for 3 1/2 minutes. No salt, no cheese sauce, no fuss. Sometimes we have an “all-white” dinner. We always talk about the color of our food. Everyone knows by now, however, that cauliflower comes in purples and oranges, too. I will be growing the purple variety for sure this fall.

Speaking of growing, it’s time to start thinking about the fall garden. For people who start seeds, you probably should have already started them. I buy my seedlings from the Master Gardener Fall Vegetable sale (October 5 at Prusch this year), and will probably continue to do this to in order to support the organization. That, and because the garage is too messy to have a good germination station this year.

You don’t need to be incredibly bright to grow cauliflower. Put the seedling in a raised bed. Make sure you have soil, as opposed to dirt, where you plant it. Put it in a place where it gets plenty of sun, and water it.

Bugs do like cauliflower. If you see holes in the leaves, check the back side of the leaf (with your readers on) and chances are you will find a worm, caterpillar, or slug.

The wonderful part about growing cauliflower is that you will see huge dark green leaves forming and curling in on itself. One day you’ll go and peek inside and be rewarded with a perfect brain of cauliflower. If you’re the impatient gardener, you can peek early and see a mini brain.

The biggest mistake in growing cauliflower is waiting too long to harvest. If you wait too long, the slugs will infiltrate it–even if you have chickens–so put those readers back on once you get it in the kitchen! Don’t keep waiting for it to get bigger and better. It won’t. Cut it off, and eat it up. Remember how long it lasts in the frig? It’s safer there than in your garden.

When planning a garden, it’s important that you think about space v. harvest. For example, I don’t plant corn simply because I’m not willing to devote that much space to so little fruit. Head lettuce, the same. (Leaf lettuce, a totally different story–the best thing ever!) Cauliflower is similar. You get one head per plant, and the plants get large. If you’re limited on space, buy your cauliflower from the supermarket. Cauliflower ranks 34 on the Dirty Dozen list, so you decide if that’s a pesticide load you can live with. If not, buy organic.

Download the Dirty Dozen app for your smart phone or check the EWG’s web site for fruit and vegetable rankings. I use it every time I grocery shop to decide if the organic equivalent is worth the extra cost. For instance, avocados and onions rank very low on the pesticide load, so I don’t worry so much if I buy non-organic avocados or onions.

That said, you should attempt to grow cauliflower at least once. Pick the cheddar or purple variety to grow since white is so ordinary.

Another heads-up: your broccoli and cauliflower will likely all become ready to harvest at the same time unless you’re skilled at succession planting, which I am not. At least broccoli continues to send out shoots that are edible after you cut off the main stalk. Cauliflower is one and done. Have those soup recipes ready! Here’s my favorite cauliflower soup recipe:

1 medium cauliflower, 1 medium onion, 2 cups vegetable broth, 3 Tbs walnuts, salt and pepper, garnish with paprika and chopped walnuts and a drizzle of chili oil.

Bring cauliflower and onions to a boil in broth and then simmer for about 15 minutes until soft. Add walnuts (if the texture isn’t quite right, add some milk) and blend in Vita Mix until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish. Yum. It kind of stinks after refrigeration, so plug your nose when you heat it up. A friend of mine likens the taste of bad cauliflower soup to sucking on bandaids. If you have a little more time, and want a little more depth of flavor, roast the onion and cauliflower beforehand. It might add specks of char to the finished product, but it should taste better than bandaids.

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About master kindergardener

Santa Clara County Master Gardener since 2007, Mom since 2009, Gardener since birth.
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