Cauliflowers, though not the easiest vegetable to grow, can be one of the most satisfying when harvested for this very reason. They take up a lot of space, and resources, require specific growing conditions, and can only be planted with certain crops, making them quite a challenge to successfully produce.
However, the work doesn’t stop during the growing phase. A lot of careful planning and specific care is needed to harvest cauliflowers also. If done well, you can find yourself with a tasty crop that can be grown all year round.
Keep on reading to find out how to prepare your cauliflowers and harvest them at the right time so that they taste just right and have grown a reasonable size.
When Is The Best Time For Harvesting Cauliflower?
Though there are several varieties of cauliflower, they tend to be ready to harvest around the same time. Cauliflowers can be sown all year round, as long as the right conditions are provided during the cold and damp winter months. However, the best time of the year to sow is between March and May when the ground is softer and temperatures are milder.
Most cauliflowers are mature between 3-5 months from sowing. It is best to first check the seed packet as each type does vary slightly.
The head of your cauliflower should be firm and only just beginning to separate. The majority of the flowers should be compact. You should also harvest your cauliflower before it turns yellow. Most cauliflower heads will be between 6-12 inches in diameter when they are ready to be harvested.
How To Harvest Cauliflower?
Knowing when to harvest cauliflower is crucial to avoid bitter and discolored cauliflower heads. Before harvesting, you need to blanch your cauliflowers.
How To Blanch Cauliflower?
Blanching cauliflowers involves covering the cauliflower heads and protecting them from the sun to retain their bright, white coloring and improve their flavor.
When your cauliflower head is between 2-3 inches wide, remove the large, outer leaves and tie them around the cauliflower heads. This will prevent them from gaining direct sunlight and allow them time to turn pure white.
Once you have begun the blanching process, depending upon the variety, your cauliflowers will be fully mature and ready to harvest in 1-2 weeks.
Now your cauliflower is fully blanched and grown with a diameter of 6-8 inches, it is ready to be harvested. Remember to check not only the color of your crop but also that the flowers have not separated and are still tightly compact.
When ready, remove the leaves that were blanching your cauliflower. Cut the head with a sharp, clean knife leaving part of the stem and some of the outer leaves. This will help prolong the life of your cauliflower once cut.
Storing Your Cauliflower
Once your cauliflower has been harvested, you need to store it carefully so that it lasts and isn’t eaten by bugs.
Cauliflowers especially are susceptible to cabbage worms that hide inside the head. If left untreated, you may find that your stored cauliflower is eaten by any cabbage worms unknowingly left in your crop.
To avoid this, soak the head of your cauliflower in salty water for 20-30 minutes. Try a solution of one teaspoon of salt per gallon of water. This will kill any cabbage worms left inside your cauliflower.
Once rinsed, you can then store your cauliflower. It can be stored directly in your refrigerator for up to a week. However, it does let off a strong odor and so this option may not be preferable if you are not eating your cauliflower right away.
Alternatively, you can cut and freeze your cauliflower. Ensure to blanch your cauliflower by boiling it for 1 minute before freezing to that it lasts longer.
The leftover cauliflower leaves are also edible and do not need throwing. Once washed and dried with a paper towel, these can be used in the same way as spinach or kale.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you harvest cauliflower so it keeps growing?
Unlike broccoli, cauliflowers do not produce side shoots. Once the main head is harvested, your cauliflower plant is redundant and will no longer continue to grow. Most gardeners will dig up and remove the plant at this stage to make space for additional crops.
If you want to produce more than one cauliflower head during the year, a good idea is to plant several crops each month. This will provide you with a continual harvest all year round with each cauliflower taking around 3-5 months to reach maturity.
Does cauliflower grow back after you cut it?
No, your cauliflower will not grow back. Cauliflowers are an annual plant. Once they have reached maturity and are harvested, they will not regrow another cauliflower head.
How do you know cauliflower is ready to harvest?
Cauliflowers are ready to harvest when the head is between 6-8inches in diameter, the head feels firm, and hasn’t yet begun separating.
How many times can cauliflower be harvested?
Cauliflower can only be harvested once as it is an annual plant. You will need to grow a new cauliflower plant from seed to achieve a second harvest.
Should you remove cauliflower leaves?
You should remove the larger, outer leaves of the cauliflower as it grows to cover the cauliflower head for blanching.
Once your cauliflower is fully grown and ready to be harvested, ensure to keep some of the outer leaves attached to your cauliflower head. Only remove the leaves once you are ready to wash and cut your cauliflower.
Can you eat cauliflower stems and leaves?
Yes, you can! Cauliflower leaves and stems are full of flavor and nutrients. They can be used in salads, soups, stir fry, or even pasta.
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