|Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea) photo credit|
The flower head, leaves and stem of cauliflower are all eatable, but it is the immature flower head that is typically eaten. To preserve the nutritive value, it is best to consume cauliflower raw or steamed. It is suggested that cauliflower has cancer fighting properties that are progressively destroyed if it is boiled over 5 minutes.
Cauliflower is a cool season crop that maintains the best flavor and eye appeal if temps stay below 70F and it receives even moisture throughout the growing period. Cauliflower can be started indoors 6 weeks before the average last spring frost and transplanted into a prepared garden as much as two weeks before the last frost. It can also be planted as part of a fall garden if started about 75 days before the average first fall frost. Plant in full sun about 18 inches apart and maintain about 1inch of water per week. Once the flower head begins to develop, loosely gather the leaves surrounding the head and tie them together with a rubber band or twist tie. This is called 'blanching'. Blanching protects the flower head from expose to the sun, keeping the head snowy white and helping to maintain flavor. The head is fully mature when it reaches about 6 inches in diameter. Use a sharp knife to cut it off the plant about 2 inches below the head and store it in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Happy Gardening! :)