Cauliflower Pains

Round two of cauliflower has not ended well. We had high hopes, but my research skills have caused us problems. In order to do better this time, I watched some YouTube videos, read articles and looked for advice for growing cauliflower. I felt confident when the first heads started growing and seemed to be thriving. I was determined to have a good harvest of them. And we were so close…oh so close.

Unfortunately, all of my research was on the traditional cauliflower with a white head. We weren’t growing that type. We were growing a “Cheddar Cauliflower” which is has an orange head, hence the “cheddar” in the name. What I have learned, is that varieties are important to distinguish when doing your research, or you may end up with a disappointing turnout. Especially with a plant that is known to be finicky and can be tough to grow.

I had heard that cauliflower can dry out quite quickly. We live in a semi-arid dessert, and and were experiencing plenty of hot weather. Although the plants did get evening shade and lots of water through irrigation, I wanted to make sure it didn’t bolt or just dry up. So one of the videos I watched was about blanching the cauliflower plants. This is when you take the leaves, pull them up around the head and then secure them with an elastic band. This keeps them happily tucked away, and the elastic allows the head to grow and push the leaves out as needed.

So, when my cauliflower got to the size recommended for the blanching stage, I went to it. At this point only 4 of our 6 plants ended up with heads, but I was ok with that. 4 heads of cauliflower for 2 of us is plenty! I had been reading on a local gardeners facebook group that people were having issues with their cauliflower either bolting in the abnormally warm June weather we have been having, or they were ending up with plant and no cauliflower, like 2 of our plants. I was excited that I had managed to get mine to grow and that they were doing well. Too soon to get excited unfortunately.

After a couple days, I was reading in the same gardening group that due to an extreme heatwave that was rolling in, I should pick the cauliflower, even if they were a little small. It was unlikely that they would do well in the heatwave, and I was excited to get some cauliflower, so I decided I would pick mine for a small harvest this year.

Well, Kurt and I did our nightly garden walkthrough and when I opened the first cauliflower, our biggest head, I was so disappointed. It had started turning colour, indicating rot or unhappiness in the conditions. Had I checked a day earlier, I might have been able to save 2 of the heads, but the blanching process takes 5 – 7 days, so I was trying not to peek. Mistake number 2. Always take a peek! Then you know how the veggie is doing. Ah. As I opened the other 3, I was not surprised to see that they were all in the same, or worse, state. So disheartening. I was sooooo looking forward to making some delicious meals.

My very first mistake was my research. Had I researched coloured cauliflower, basically any kind other than the traditional white cauliflower, I would have learned not to blanch them. Everything I have read since learning of my cauliflowers fate is not to blanch coloured cauliflower. Oh so heartbreaking that something so simple in my research led to such a terrible outcome. But lesson learned. Now I know at least 1 thing that I can do next year to have a more successful crop. Only blanch if white, otherwise leave it alone.

The good news is that it looks like the two that were not producing heads have now started to do so! I don’t know if they just needed a little more heat and the massive heatwave that rolled through managed to trigger them to grow, or if they were just late bloomers (see what I did there?). Either way, I now have hope that I can get 2 heads of cauliflower still this year. The other option I have is that I can get other varieties of cauliflower that are ready in the autumn, so we may still have another chance if these two heads don’t make it. I will have to visit a local nursery to see if they have some plants as I don’t think I am ready to grow them from seed. I am not sure if I can at this point. We will see.

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