Cauliflower is part of the Brassica family, growing above the soil. There are more varieties now but the main three types are mid-summer, autumn and winter varieties. Dependent on your location and the variety you can plant and harvest them for most of the year-round.
You can start as early as February by sowing indoors, in seed trays. When sowing your cauliflower seeds, it is good to have a surplus for any that fail. However, cauliflowers tend to be ready all at once and you can find that you have too many!
You can sow them through until May time and again in autumn for over wintering varieties. If you are doing both, you will likely be able to harvest cauliflowers for most of the year, dependent on sowing times and weather conditions.
Sow outdoors or plant out during Spring for those early varieties. You can usually harvest approximately 3 to 6 months however it can take a lot longer.
Cauliflowers like fertile soil and plenty of water at the roots. It is worth digging in lots of well-rotted manure or organic compost when you are preparing your soil beds. Space the cauliflower plants approximately 2ft apart and allow a bit extra for winter cultivators. Cauliflower plants should be planted deeply; up to the bottom leaves. Do check your seed packet guidelines, also factoring in your soil type, weather conditions and positioning of the soil bed.
Cauliflowers; like most brassicas attract pests are best protected by mesh or netting fine enough to prevent insects, caterpillars, slugs and snails eating the leaves as well as butterflies and birds that will eat the heads too.
The formed head may differ dependent on your variety and its stage of growth. When a cauliflower is ready to harvest, it should be white and firm. If the florets begin to separate it will be past its best and needs to be harvested before this happens. Once the heads do form, they can appear and grow quickly, so you need to check them regularly. Some varieties come with yellow and purple heads! Some may be larger or smaller than others.
To harvest your cauliflowers, cut them off at the stem so that you have the head with some leaves surrounding it. You can clear the bed for root and debris once all your crop is lifted.
Cauliflowers are better, cooked and eaten fresh. They can be stored for a few days at room temperature or refrigerated but allow air to it rather than in airtight packaging.
You can store cauliflower by blanching it, drying off all the excess moisture and laying florets in a freezer bag flat with all the air expelled.
You will love trying your own cauliflower cheese!