Cauliflower

Health Power

Like other crucifers, cauliflower contains glucosinolates (sulforaphane) and thiocyanates (isothiocyanate). Together, they increase the ability of liver cells to create compounds that remove harmful, sometimes cancer-causing, toxins. See Brussels Sprouts and Cabbage for more on the detoxification benefits of eating crucifers. Cauliflower itself also contains enzymes that assist in detoxification. Cauliflower also provides dietary fiber and the B vitamin folate. Fiber promotes healthy digestion and lower blood cholesterol levels. Pregnant women need folate to ensure the healthy development of their baby’s nervous system.

Vitamin and Mineral Content

Vitamins – C, K, B6 (Pyridoxine), B5 (Pantothenic Acid), B2 (Riboflavin), B1 (Thiamin) and B3 (Niacin)
Minerals – Manganese, Potassium, Phosphorus and Magnesium

Disease Prevention

Eating cruciferous vegetables several times a week reduces the risk of many cancers, sometimes by up to 50 percent. Such cancers include lung, colon, breast, ovary, bladder, colorectal and prostate. Research has found the spice turmeric has a compound, curcumin, that, with the many isothiocyanates in crucifers, may retard or inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells. Middle-aged men concerned about prostate enlargement may do well by regularly eating cauliflower with turmeric. Cauliflower may also protect from cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and indigestion.

How to Grow

Cauliflowers are the most difficult crucifer/brassica to grow due to their sensitivity to nutrient deficiencies and club root disease. Try to grow these only if your land is free of club root. Like cabbage, cauliflower comes in three types: summer, fall and winter/spring. Choose a site with full sun. Amend the soil with plenty of organic matter from a planting mix, aged manure or compost. Cauliflower must have access to all the micronutrients for proper growth. Make the pH 6.5-7. Add lime to raise, if needed. For summer varieties, sow seeds in mid-winter in a tray on a windowsill or in a greenhouse. Transplant into bigger seed trays when large enough to handle so they do not go hungry. Plant them out as soon as they reach 2 inches tall into spaces 18-22 inches square. Consider planting under cloches to protect from cold and pests. You can successively sow seeds on a windowsill in late winter and outdoors in shallow drills throughout spring for a continuous harvest. Autumn cauliflowers are the most popular. For them, sow seeds mid-spring in shallow drills separated by 5-7 inches. Plant out in early to mid-summer in holes as deep as they were, making sure to space them out about 24 inches square. For winter/spring varieties, sow seeds in mid- to late spring. Transplant into spaces 30 inches square when they reach 3 inches tall. Keep the area weed free. Cover soil around the plants with organic matter or plastic to retain moisture. Keep watered, as they wither quickly. Cut the curds as they develop into proper sizes. If too many of the summer types are ready at the same time, cut them and store in a cool shed. Remove stumps after harvesting and dispose or compost them. Leave the fall and winter/spring types to harvest when ready to eat to avoid their running to seed.

Insect Control

Cauliflowers are bothered by a number of common pests. See Brussels Sprouts and Broccoli for common treatments. Your rapid response to infestation or disease is crucial with cauliflower to avoid compromising the crop by premature curding.

Tips

Keep micronutrients available for cauliflower, as deficiencies cause deformities. Fertilizing with a nutrient-dense fertilizer (such as alfalfa, fish bone or kelp meal) halfway through growth may help avoid potential problems with soils bordering on deficient. For fall cauliflowers, compact the soil around the base to provide support. For winter/spring varieties, angle the plants away from the morning sun to prevent the middle curds from thawing out too quickly, which can ruin flavor and change the color. Keep the curds out of direct sunlight by bending over a large leaf to cover them. Also, spray stored cauliflowers with water to keep them happy.

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