How to Grow and Cook Cauliflower - The Rising Star of the Veg Box
Once it was the lesser-known cousin of broccoli, but now cauliflower has turned heads for its versatility and nutrient-rich superfood status. The problem is, it’s not the easiest veg to grow. To help expand your knowledge and give you cauliflower-growing success, we’re going to cover:
- The basics of cauliflower
- Types of cauliflower
- Sowing cauliflower seeds
- Ongoing care for the curds
- When to harvest
- Cooking cauliflower
Read on and discover more about the curious cauliflower and all its growing popularity.
The basics of cauliflower
Thanks to its bright, creamy-white florets and large surrounding leaves, cauliflower instantly recognisable. It originated in the Mediterranean, and has a very mild flavour with an almost nutty aftertaste, which helps it work wonderfully in a range of recipes.
As well as being tasty, it’s nutritionally beneficial too. One serving (100g) has:
- 100% of daily Vitamin C intake
- 0g fat
- 92g water
- 25 calories
Cauliflower is hydrating, healthy, full of essential vitamins, and an excellent source of fibre too – a superfood!
Types of Cauliflower
If you’re shopping in the supermarket, chances are you’ll only find the classic, white variety alongside the broccoli and sprouts. However, there are so many different kinds of cauliflower you can grow at home: orange, purple and green too. They all taste very similar.
Romanesco – a semi-known variety sometimes called broccoflower due to its green cone-shaped florets that spiral out in patterns.
Graffiti – bright and bold purple, this variety will liven up any plate of food.
Cheddar – striking orange variety doesn’t taste like cheese, but does add some beautiful shades to dinner.
Clapton – as the first variety bred to be disease-resistant, clapton delivers excellent uniform florets
Sowing cauliflower seeds
Cauliflower is a tricky one to grow, but in certain climates it thrives. It needs to be cooler as they’re more temperature-sensitive than their broccoli and cabbage cousins. Most gardeners find it easier to start them off inside. If you do start them outside, sow your seeds around 1.5 cm deep, spaced 7-15cm apart.
After sowing indoors, wait around 4-5 weeks until your cauliflower seedlings have around five true leaves, and then transplant them outside around 60cm apart – more room equals nice big cauliflowers heads.
Ongoing care for the curds
- The head of cauliflowers (or the curds) needs protection from pests and diseases – particularly cabbage white butterflies. A vegetable cage or some butterfly netting will work.
- They’ll need plenty of water, but don’t make it too wet or soggy. Adding mulch or compost around the plant will help with this, just make sure it doesn’t touch the plants themselves.
- Varieties need blanching (not the cooking technique) for the colour while others need plenty of sun, so check the labels.
How to blanch cauliflower
Blanching cauliflowers while growing doesn’t involve a pot of boiling water. Instead this blanching prevents them from developing unnatural colour and a bitter flavour. Once the curds reach 5-7cm across, tie up the large outer leaves over the top. Don’t make them too tight – it still needs room to grow – and remember to check on them regularly.
When to harvest
By checking on the curds, you’ll be able to see when they’re fully-grown and ready to pick:
- Look for large, fully-developed heads
- Make sure the florets aren’t rice-like
- Leave a couple of large leaves for protection and longevity
- Don’t manhandle the heads as they bruise like peaches
- Once picked, store hung upside-down in a cool place
- Spray with misty water to help last longer
- Blanch in hot water and freeze to be ready to eat any time of year
Some tasty recipes
Due to its mild flavour and unique texture, cauliflower is an incredibly versatile vegetable. You can boil it for a standard Sunday-lunch side or go for classic cauliflower cheese, but there are plenty of other options too:
Make cauliflower rice: a great option for healthy, nutritious and delicious weight loss. Remove the core and the leaves, then grating the curd. Quickly sauté it in a pan, then serve for a low carb rice alternative.
Oven-roasted cauliflower: a delicious veggie meal option. Slice your cauliflower in large pieces, drizzle with olive oil and some seasoning. Spread them all out on a tray, and then simply roast until tender. Don’t overcrowd the tray or they’ll go mushy! Sprinkle over some Parmesan cheese, if you like it extra crispy.
Make a low carb pizza crust: told you it was versatile! Cut and grate the head as you would for cauliflower rice, and then add in an egg and combine to make dough. This simple and healthy pizza crust all ready to be smothered in cheese, tasty toppings, and baked as a normal pizza.
Homemade soup: we already know that cauliflowers are healthy and nutritious, but they’re also warming and super easy to make into soup. Boil it up, drain and blitz it. You can add other veggies for variety, milk to thin it out, and even cheese if you want it to be a little richer.
As you can see, no matter the types of cauliflower you grow, they’re all a bit of a grower’s wonder. They need a little TLC to get started, and some looking after throughout the growing season, but you’ll be rewarded with a truly versatile vegetable. Get growing, harvesting and cooking cauliflower, and enjoy some unusual and delicious meals.