I’d always thought of cauliflower as an exclusively winter food. Steamed lightly and topped with an artery-clogging Gruyère-infused white sauce, it was part and parcel of my formative culinary years. Thankfully, over time, my cauliflower sensibilities have grown a little more sophisticated, as I began to grasp the potential of this amazing vegetable.
But it was only as I delved into gardening that its inter-seasonal potential became clear. The fact is, you can grow cauliflower pretty much any time of the year. It’s simply a matter of getting the right variety for your conditions.
You’ll find classic winter varieties for those who want to plant traditionally, but for warm-weather gardening, cauliflower varieties such as All Year Hybrid and Phenomenal Early are just the ticket. The latter is particularly impressive for size and flavour, and can be grown anywhere in Australia.
As most cauliflowers need between 65-85 days in the ground from planting to form quality heads, you’ll need to plant out seedlings around early February for a good autumn crop. This can prove tough in some areas, as late summer heat is particularly formidable and new plantings are susceptible to heat stress. So keep up the water and consider using some form of shading, especially when long afternoons become scorching.
The other hazard that affects all brassicas (Brussel sprouts, cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower) is cabbage moth. It may be a delicate and pretty creature, but its worms will eat out your vegies if they’re not protected. So a bit of netting and judicious use of pyrethrum spray is recommended.
This story first featured in Flavour The Peter McInnes Magazine, Autumn 2013.
Photo: Liz West