Caring for Cauliflower: Plant Now For a Spring Harvest
I was shocked – as shocked as one can get about vegetables, which, frankly, runs pretty low on my shock-scale. But still, when my brother-in-law ordered a small plate of roasted cauliflower for the table, I didn’t think I’d be (softly) stabbing his hand with my fork in order to eat the last piece.
That night, the Olympic Provisions kitchen handed over the incredibly easy recipe (see below) to replicate the yummy dish at home, so we might make as much as we wanted and ensure familial bliss.
If you read this blog and recently planted easy peas, you’ll have more time to tend to your slightly more needy cauliflower crop. The benefits are awesome: adding more cruciferous veggies to your plate will not only give you more vitamin C and K, but also add glucosinolates to your diet, “compounds containing sulfer that are found only in cruciferous vegetables. Eating glucosinolates might help lower your risk of cancer, according to the Linus Pauling Institute.”
Cauliflower thrives in a cool climate of consistent 60 degree weather, and grow best planted in the fall. If you live in a warm area, you can plant any time from now ‘til early winter, but want to wait ‘til the weather is consistently around 75 degrees or colder.
- Plant 6-8 weeks before the first fall frost.
- Choose a spot with at least 6 hours of full sun, with soil rich in potassium and nitrogen.
- Start your seedlings indoors, according to OrganicGardening.com, and plant the seeds ¼ to ½ inch deep in peat or paper pots. Harden off your seedlings for a week by exposing them to a few hours of outdoor sunlight and air each day before you transplant into your garden.
- Plant the seedlings 15 to 24 inches apart (check with your nursery regarding the variety that will work best for your region).
- Cauliflower needs consistent water to grow well – 1 to 1 ½ inches per week.
- Be patient – some varieties take 75 to 85 days after transplant to fully mature.
- To keep your cauliflower looking fresh and white (unless you’re growing the gorgeous purple variety), The Old Farmer’s Almanac suggests you blanch your plants to protect them from the sun. “When the curd (the white head) is about 2 to 3 inches in diameter, tie the outer leaves together over the head with a rubber band, tape, or twine.”
- The cauliflower is ready to harvest around 7 to 12 days after blanching.
As promised, the recipe for roasted cauliflower a la Robert the brother-in-law:
Chef’s note: Measurements don’t really apply for this recipe. You go where the spirit leads you. Baking on a pizza stone is ideal, but a baking tray works well, too.
- Depending on your hunger, take 1 head of cauliflower (or more). Cut out most of the core and detach/cut the florets. Separate florets to make smaller ones – but not too small.
- Throw into a mixing bowl and add enough olive oil to get them nicely coated but not drenched. Mix around by hand and add more if needed.
- Grind coarse sea salt and pepper (to taste) into the bowl, then mix again.
- Heat oven to at least 450 with pizza stone/baking tray in there. I often do these on the barbecue, getting the temp well above 500. Requires being more watchful, but the higher temp seems to result in best combination of charring and firmness.
- Once you get oven to desired temp, dump cauliflower onto the pre-heated tray and spread out as much as possible.
- Check in about 8 minutes (sooner at higher temps). On a pre-heated tray, the side of the floret facing down will start to brown first. Watch for this, and if that’s the case, push the florets around a bit for even browning.
- Check again at about 12 minutes and press on the stems of the bigger pieces to see how soft they are. You want them to be somewhat soft to the touch, but still firm to the tooth. Try one and see if you like the texture. If not, give them a couple minutes and sample again.
Serve to happy eaters who never knew cauliflower could be so good. Are you growing your own cauliflower?
(Photo Credit: Pirate Kitchen)