Knowing how to harvest cauliflower is important as it is one of the most popular and well-known flowers. It is an annual plant from the family of cabbage. Let’s look at all you need to know about cauliflower and how to harvest them.
1. What is Cauliflower?
This is a plant whose name originates from a Latin word known as caulis. It belongs to the family cabbage. Just like cabbages, the florets of the plant are jointly bound together by a thick core.
Although cauliflowers come in white color, they can also come in different shades and colors like purple, orange, purple, and green. The color does not in any way change the taste and feel of the plant. They still have the same nutty and almost sweet taste.
2. When to Plant Cauliflower
Planting cauliflower is very easy as it is not different from planting other garden plants. You’ll have to ensure that the plant is placed in an area with adequate sunlight like 5 to 8 hours daily.
Another factor to bear in mind when planting cauliflower is the type of soil. The soil used for planting should consist of all the necessary nutrients needed for its growth. The perfect time for cauliflower to grow and produce rapidly is during fall. This is because of the cool weather. You can also plant cauliflower in spring but it grows best in fall.
2.1. Planting in Fall
When planting in the Fall season, take note of the timing. It is important that cauliflower is planted at least 6 weeks before the fall frost date. The temperature during this period is usually below 75 degrees. This is ideal for the plant.
2.2. Planting in Spring
Planting in spring can be tedious especially since you’re starting out with planting the seeds. However, you should make sure that the seeds are planted indoors. This should be done at least 4 weeks before the last extreme cold weather in spring. To confirm the specific frost dates, you can check in with the local gardening office in your area.
2.3. Soil Temperature
Cauliflower will blossom and germinate well when the temperature of the soil is around 65 degrees Fahrenheit to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can try out transplanting the seedlings outdoors. This should be done when the seeds are already big enough and are no longer prone to the danger of frost.
2.5. Avoid Extreme Heat
When you plant in the fall, this will help prevent your plant from the destruction that is caused by extreme heat in midsummer. This can make the cauliflower plant produce poor-quality heads.
When planting cauliflower, microclimates should be taken into consideration. You should know that it is not every area in your garden that experiences the same climate. There are parts that can be cooler and warmer than the rest. Once you figure out which is which, you’ll be able to know the right spot to plant your cauliflower.
2.7. Regional Variations
You should be aware that the perfect time to plant your cauliflower can vary. This happens because of your climate zone. It is important that you confirm with your local gardening and extension officer for a more precise recommendation.
3. How to Plant Cauliflower
Here are the processes you can follow if you want to plant cauliflower:
3.1. Selecting the Site
The first thing you should consider in planting cauliflower is the suitable site to grow the plant. A location that is well-drained and sunny is the perfect place to plant. The availability of sun in the area will go a long way in the growth and development of the plant. Be mindful of planting in areas that are prone to drenching.
3.2. Soil Preparation
After you have chosen the perfect site for planting, what you need to do next is to make preparations on the soil. Make sure that the weeds, rocks, and debris are removed from the oil. You can improve the structure of the soil by adding the necessary nutrients to it.
3.3. Planting the Seeds
Planting the seeds can be done in two phases; indoor planting and transplanting. Indoor planting basically involves planting the seeds indoors for a period of 6 weeks before the last frost date. The soil should be kept moist at this stage and the seeds should be planted ¼ inch deep.
The transplanting phase, on the other hand, involves planting the seedlings outdoors. This is done because they are mature enough and are no longer prone to the risk of frost.
Giving the right spacing when planting cauliflower is very important. It is advisable to space the plants about 20 inches apart to give room and adequate space for proper air circulation. Spacing your plants also helps to avoid the contention for nutrients from other plants.
This is an important part of planting. Your plants will not grow if you do not water them consistently. The soil should be kept moist by providing at least 2 inches of water every week.
Fertilizing your plants is very important for the rapid growth of your plants. You can make use of fertilizers that have high concentrations of nitrogen in them as they help to boost plant growth. It will do you good if you follow the instructions written on the package for the right dosage.
There are a variety of organic mulch you can add to the soil to improve soil quality like wood chips and straw. They can also help to retain soil moisture and even maintain the temperature of the soil.
3.8. Management of Pests and Diseases
Plants like cauliflower are mainly attacked by a variety of pests and diseases. It is crucial that you watch out for common pests and diseases like slugs and aphids. You can employ the use of pest control methods to prevent these diseases. Another way to prevent this is by introducing crop rotation and good sanitation.
Blanching basically involves carefully and gently folding out the outer flowers of the cauliflower heads. This is very important in the planting process because it helps to maintain the color and protect the leaves from direct sunlight.
4. How to Harvest Cauliflower
Here are the processes you need to harvest cauliflower in order to achieve the best results:
4.1. Determine Maturity
To know when your cauliflower is ready to be harvested, you have to be able to know when it is mature. The heads should be firm and must have reached a particular size.
They should also be tightly joined with edible florets in a dense formation which should be about 6 inches. Pay close attention to the heads of the cauliflower to know when it is mature and when it is the right size for harvest.
Also, the color of the cauliflower should be uniform with the surface of the heads. Since they can come in different colors like green, purple, and orange, these colors should be consistent.
If you leave cauliflower longer than expected, it becomes hardened and develops a bitter taste.
4.2. Evaluate the Leaves
You should assess the outer leaves you find around the cauliflower before harvesting. When you notice that the leaves have begun to slightly separate from each other, it shows that it is time for the harvest. It is important that you try to harvest the heads before they begin to loosen and separate from each other. Bear in mind that timing is key to achieving the best flavor.
4.3. Harvesting Technique
It is very important that you harvest cauliflower at dawn when the temperature is cool. This will help preserve the quality, texture, and taste of the plant. During the harvesting process, you can make use of a knife or garden shears to carefully cut out the heads.
This should be carefully carried out so that you do not damage or destroy the surrounding leaves. Ensure after the harvest, cut out and discard any form of damaged or yellow leaves. This can help enhance the circulation of air and also give room for smaller shoots to develop.
4.4. Secondary Shoots
Cauliflowers are of different types and they produce tiny side shoots that are called chateau. This usually sprouts immediately after the heads have been harvested. These secondary shoots can also be harvested during the harvest period.
After harvesting, it is crucial to handle harvested cauliflowers with care. This will help keep your plants from getting damaged or bruised. After post-harvesting comes the storage. You can decide to keep them in the refrigerator or in an air-tight bag to preserve them.
5. How to Store Cauliflower
It is important you know how to store cauliflower after harvest. Here is a step-by-step process that can help you get started:
5.1. Asses the Flowers
After you have harvested your cauliflower, it is now time to assess the flowers. You will then have to ensure that the heads are firm. This is to ensure that they are in the best condition.
You should start by getting rid of excess leaves and debris from the head of the cauliflower. Once you’re done cleaning, you can rinse it with cold water.
5.3. Air Dry
The next step is to air dry your already trimmed and clean cauliflower heads. You can dry them with a paper towel or a clean cloth.
5.4. Choose a Storage Method
You can decide to store your cauliflower as a whole or when cut into florets. It is important to keep in mind that cauliflower will remain fresh when whole. You can also choose to cut them into florets to maximize space when storing.
5.5. Prepare the Packaging
It is up to you to decide on the right packaging to use to store your cauliflower. You can make use of a punctured plastic bag or even an impenetrable container. A punctured plastic bag can help maintain airflow and at the same time, preserve the humidity level.
5.6. Moisture Control
Since cauliflowers have the tendency to dry out easily, controlling the moisture is very crucial. You just have to keep a slightly damp paper towel in the container where you’ve stored the cauliflowers.
5.7. Temperature and Placement
You should know that cauliflowers are extremely sensitive plants. Storing them in a cool place like your refrigerator or crisper drawer is very important. Cauliflowers can survive when the temperature is between 30 degrees and 35 degrees Fahrenheit.
You should isolate cauliflower from other fruits like bananas and apples that produce ethylene. This is because ethylene has the tendency to make cauliflower go bad.
5.9. Check Regularly
It is important that you regularly check on your cauliflower. Once you discover that there are signs of spoilage or off-putting odor, do well to discard them. You should make sure to thoroughly wash and clean the cauliflower before use.
6. How to Preserve Cauliflower
Cauliflower can be preserved through different methods:
6.1. Freezing Method
You can store freshly picked cauliflower in the refrigerator for a particular duration. They can stay crisp for a period of two weeks. You should make sure that they are not washed before storing them to preserve their freshness. You can also preserve young cauliflower for about six weeks under a constant temperature.
The freezing method is ideal for cauliflowers because the nutrients present in the plants can stay frozen. You can cut them into florets before placing them in the refrigerator.
You can readily bring out the amount you need and add it to your dish when cooking.
6.2. Pickling Method
This method involves soaking cauliflower in a solution that contains salt, water, and vinegar. This is one of the ways to improve and extend the shelf life of the plant.
6.3. Fermentation Method
In this method, the cauliflower is mixed together with salt and seasonings and left to ferment. The fermented cauliflower is often called cauliflower kimchi. This is one way to preserve the plant and add a unique flavor.
This is another effective method of preserving cauliflowers. You just need to put them in a pressure canner that would help get rid of harmful bacteria. You should follow the right procedures when canning cauliflower so that the quality and originality of the veggie can be prolonged.
6.5. Dehydration Method
You can dehydrate your cauliflowers by simply removing moisture from the plant. This would help prevent the growth of molds and microorganisms on the vegetable. Storing dehydrated cauliflowers should be in an airtight jar. You can easily rehydrate the cauliflower when needed.
6.6. Roasting and Oil Packaging
If you cut your cauliflower into smaller pieces, it is advisable to roast them and preserve them with oil. This method helps to enhance flavor and prolong the lifespan of the Vegetable.
7. Diseases that Affect Cauliflower
There are a good number of pests and diseases that affect cauliflowers:
7.1. Black Rot
This is a type of bacterial disease that is known to cause V-shaped bruises on leaves. As a result, the leaves turn to brown and yellow coloration. This disease can spread faster when the soil is full of moisture.
This type of disease is soil-borne. It can lead to a defective growth of the plant as it causes the roots to swell. Clubroot is caused by a fungus. This disease can be properly managed when the soil drainage is improved.
7.3. Cabbage Aphids
These are known to be insects that can cause the stunted growth of a plant and also transmit a variety of diseases. The use of insecticidal soaps can help manage their number.
7.4. Fusarium Wilt
This is known to be a fungal disease that kills the plants by making them yellow and wilting them. You should make sure that you do not plant cauliflower in places where other crops with the disease were grown.
8. How to Cook Cauliflower
If you’re wondering how to cook cauliflower, you can follow these processes:
You can begin your cooking process by washing the head and plucking out the outer leaves surrounding the cauliflower. Then you can dice them into florets to be sure that they are thoroughly cooked.
8.2. Boiling Method
Get a pot of water and add a bit of salt in it. Then, add the florets into the pot and place the pot on the stove, and leave to boil for about seven minutes. Make sure that they are not overcooked to the extent that they are mushy. After boiling, you can now drain out the water.
8.3. Steaming Method
If you want to keep the taste of your cauliflower, you can stream them. You just need to keep the florets in a basket and keep them in a pot of boiling water. This should be done for a few minutes until they are softened.
8.4. Roasting Method
You can roast florets by seasoning them first before keeping them on the sheet you’ll use to roast. The oven used for roasting should be preheated at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about twenty minutes. Roasted florets are usually delicious with a nutty taste.
After boiling florets till they are softened, you can now drain them and put them in a food processor. Then you can introduce butter, cream, or any seasoning of your choice. You can now blend until smooth. This can serve as an excellent alternative to mashed potatoes.
After cutting the cauliflower into tiny pieces, you should heat a pan with oil. Then you can add florets to the pan as well as any vegetable of your choice. Fry till they are crisp and tender.
9. In the End
It is important that cauliflowers are harvested at the right time. This is because when you leave the plant to stay longer than necessary, it develops a bitter taste.