in beautiful Poway, CA. We are a 32-acre, 86-bed facility incorporating ranch-style homes for our residents with memory care needs. We have organic fruit and vegetable gardens, to provide the finest and nutritious foods for our residents and local families in need.
I am officially out of my state of denial after a couple inches of rain this weekend and temperatures of 63 degrees Hi and 40 degrees Lo. It is safe to say- summer is over!
Basil will definitely be coming out this week and other warm season crops (tomatoes cucurbits and peppers) that were being harvested 2 to 3 times a week, will now be picked only once a week. This will continue until disease or frost put the final dagger into their production.
No worries though. If you caught my blog last month on broccoli and lettuce plantings, you realize we are prepared for other crops to supply goodies for the fall and winter months. We have been harvesting lettuce every week for our resident’s salads and starting this week we will harvest the first broccoli heads of the season. The broccoli was planted roughly 7 to 8 weeks ago and looks beautiful!
I would like to continue with another favorite crop this time of year, also in the Brassica family with broccoli, and that would be cauliflower. Cauliflower gets its name from the Latin caulis (cabbage) and, of course, the word flower. It was introduced to France from Genoa in the 16th century. Typically, only the head or white curd of aborted floral meristems is eaten, but the leaves can also be used in vegetable broth. Besides the typical white heads, there are purple, green and orange varieties available also. Cauliflower is low in fat, low in carbs but high in dietary fiber, folate, water and vitamin C, and possesses a high nutritional density. Cauliflower contains several phytochemicals, common in the cabbage family, that may be beneficial to human health. It contains sulforaphane which may help protect against cancer along with other glucosinolates and carotenoids. A high intake of cauliflower has been associated with a reduced risk of aggressive prostate cancer. EAT UP MEN!
Just as we discussed in last month’s blog on broccoli, cauliflower requires rich, well drained soil that has been amended with compost. It also requires full sun, at least 6 hours per day. Like the pests mentioned with broccoli, cauliflower is a host for snails, aphids, beetles and worms. Sluggo Plus helps fight cutworm, snails and slugs. B.T. works great against the cabbage looper and insecticidal soaps will do a number on the aphids. Beetles are a little tougher to control, but we have had some success with pyrethrins with spinsosad such as Captain Jack’s Dead Bug and Safer’s End All. Both products are readily available at you local home and garden center such as Grangettos.
There is another cultural practice involved with cauliflower that is not required with broccoli. To keep cauliflower heads white, or to “blanch” them, you can tie up leaves around the head when about two inches wide, with rubber bands. This will protect against browning due to sunburn. This may trap rainwater which can lead to rotting of the head. You may be better off simply bending four or five of the large, outside leaves over the crown, then tucking the leaf tip into the opposite side. If you feel too lazy to tie the cauliflower leaves over the crown to keep it white, try partially breaking a few of the large leaves and let them rest on the cauliflower head for easy blanching. This is the way I will most likely attack the potential problem because I am rather lazy and we have hundreds of heads of cauliflower in our fields. There are self-blanching varieties available such as Snowball Self-Blanching and Snowball Y Improved. I probably will try these varieties in the January and February plantings when sunburn will be a definite issue. Cauliflower will only give you that big head as opposed to broccoli which should deliver small side florets throughout the season.
As for our late plantings, we had great success last year with Snow Crown (F1) as our white cauliflower. It is very early, which I value highly, somewhere from 50-60 days. It is always mild and sweet and its hybrid vigor and rapid growth make it one of the easiest cauliflower varieties to grow. You should be able to harvest 7-8 inch heads that weigh between 1-2 lbs. It may manifest a slight ink blush in the hotter times of the year. This variety also has good tolerance to our moderate fall frosts here in Poway.
The other popular variety of cauliflower we grow is Cheddar Cauliflower (F1). Not only is this orange cauliflower beautiful, it is very good for you. Cheddar contains 25 times the beta carotene as the white varieties. Though not as quick to harvest as Snow Crown, it will mature in 58-68 days. The domed heads measure about 4-7 inches wide and are heavy. Self-blanching techniques are not really necessary for this orange variety.
You can purchase these seeds from many different seed companies, but I get mine from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. A packet of roughly 85 seeds of Snow Crown will run you $2.95 and Cheddar Cauliflower packets contain about 30 seeds for $10.95. Other colorful varieties can be found at Johnny’s such as Graffiti which is purple and Panther which gives lime-green heads. Follow the tips from last month and do the same with your cauliflower, from sowing to harvest, and you should enjoy some delicious nutritious heads. Don’t forget to plant your lettuce in between the cauliflower transplants. Cover with floating row covers if possible to keep those pesky pests off the plants.
Talk to you soon,