Grow it Yourself – cauliflower

There is a finite number of vegetables and I am nearing the end of them in this column, which must be why cauliflower is still left. It is, I am afraid, amongst my least favourite of vegetables (palatable in cheese sauce with walnuts but little going for it otherwise). However, it has stood the test of time so clearly others view it more kindly. It is a brassica, like cabbage and broccoli, so in our milder areas, it is better to avoid growing the crop through summer when the cabbage white butterfly will wreak havoc and make the heads even less appealing. It will also bolt to flower too quickly in warmer temperatures. This means planting late winter and early spring to get through before summer (it can take up to 4 months to mature), or any time from early autumn onwards for winter harvest.

Because you only want a small number to mature at once, it is often easier to buy a few seedlings at a time from the garden centre though if you are an organised gardener, you could successionally sow half a dozen seeds in small pots each month or two. Being a leafy style veg, cauliflower wants rich soil full of nutrients. If you are using animal manure, make sure it is well rotted. We prefer compost to add nutrition and texture to the soils. Plant at around 50cm spacings to allow room to develop. Most modern varieties no longer require the heads covered to keep them white, as older varieties did, but it does no harm to bend over the top leaves to give some protection if you wish. If you actually enjoy cauli, there are trendy purple, golden and green options to try and there is some evidence that these coloured veg bring even greater health benefits to the standard white form.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.