Magazine article Sunset

Setting the Record Straight on Cauliflower; Not Hard to Grow If Planted Now

Magazine article Sunset

Setting the Record Straight on Cauliflower; Not Hard to Grow If Planted Now

Article excerpt

If you've avoided planting cauliflower in your garden because you've heard it's difficult to grow, you've been misinformed. Sometimes called the aristocrat of the cabbage family, cauliflower has gotten a bad rap. One explanation for its negative reputation: gardeners often try to grow cauliflower at the wrong time of year.

In the mild-winter West, fall is prime planting time. Young plants can take advantage of balmy weather in early fall to get established and produce lush green growth.

To develop large, pearly white heads, cauliflower needs cool temperatures-our typical weather pattern by the time

heads start forming in late fall. From seedling to harvest, growth for early- to late-season varieties takes 43 to 85 days.

You can try growing cauliflower in spring, too, but success is much less predictable. If temperatures are mild, you may get decent heads. But in cool spring weather, plants often develop too slowly at first, then get hit with warm weather right when heads start forming; plants bolt (go to seed) or develop only small, button-size heads.

Seven types to try

To grow cauliflower successfully, it helps to choose the right variety. In Sunset's

test garden,'Snow Crown', an All-America winner, was our winner, too. Heads were large (up to 8 inches), firm, and very mild tasting.

'Snow Queen' developed earliest, maturing about six weeks after planting, but it bolted in our spring planting. 'Early Snowball 9 and 'Early White Hybrid' also produced large, firm, mild heads.

Along with the white types, we grew purple cauliflower which looks like a cross between cauliflower and broccoli. The head is green tinged with deep purple (all purple cauliflower varieties turn green when cooked).

Most gardeners say the purple types are easier to grow than white ones. …

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