How to Harvest Cauliflower
One of the most versatile vegetables in the kitchen, cauliflower is a rewarding plant to grow for yourself. Knowing when to cut a cauliflower can be challenging. A lot of it depends on variety, sunlight, temperature, and nutrients. If allowed to over-mature the curds of the cauliflower will spread out, grow taller, and eventually bloom.
When to harvest
Most experienced gardeners will say that when a cauliflower head reaches a diameter of 6 inches, it’s time to cut it. This isn’t always the case. Your plant may end up being smaller or even larger than this recommendation so it’s important to know what else to look for.
Since your not shipping these vegetables across the country, it’s alright to wait for the first signs of over-maturity to appear before harvesting. It’s easy to accidentally pick a cauliflower head before it reaches its maximum size potential. It doesn’t affect flavor, but waiting ensures that you are getting the biggest possible head. What to look for:
- Compact curds
- Pure in color
From the first emergence of the head, it may take as little as 7 days to reach maturity or as many as 25. Check your plant daily for progress. When the curds appear to loosen and swell a little bit, this is a sign that it needs to be harvested.
If you grow purple or orange cauliflower varieties then blanching isn’t necessary. When growing white cauliflower, farmers blanch the plants to ensure that the product is pure in color.
Blanching means preventing light from reaching the developing cauliflower head. To blanch take some of the larger outer leaves and bend them over the head to cover it. Make sure the head is dry, you don’t want to trap moisture inside. Tie them in place with twine or a rubber band, and let them shade the head as it develops.
Do this when the head first starts to emerge and has a diameter of about 2-3 inches. Leave them in place until it is time to harvest. There are varieties of white cauliflower that self-blanch. The leaves naturally grow over the head.
Here is a list of some self-blanching varieties:
- Self-Blanch (71 Days)
- Snowball Y Improved (68 days)
- Andes – Hybrid (68 days)
To harvest simply cut the head off at the base with a sharp knife or pruning shears. make sure you keep a few of the surrounding leaves with the head, it will store for longer that way. The remaining plants can be composted, they will not sprout again.
Soak the head in lightly salted water for 20 minutes to drive out any insects. Dry it off and store in plastic in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.