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Cauliflower in the garden and the kitchen

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Courtesy of Anne K. Moore

(Read caption) White is the most common color for cauliflower, but purple and some other interesting hybrids really grab attention in the garden and the kitchen.

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When I (Anne Moore) was a new gardener, the only way to get a creamy white head of cauliflower was to wait until the outer leaves were long, and then tie them up over the developing heads. This blanches the curds so they stay white.

Nowadays, cauliflower not only grows leaves long enough to cover the head, but the leaves will arch over and start the blanching process all by themselves.

Cauliflower is one of those rewarding vegetables that grow with very little effort from the gardener. It develops best in the cool spring or fall months. Cauliflower plants should be available at garden centers from February to April. Since this spring has been on the extreme side of hot, you might want to postpone your cauliflower planting until fall if you live in the South. Cauliflower is a cool-season vegetable that dislikes heat and humidity.

Start from seed

Since finding fall vegetable plants can be nearly impossible, you can raise a fall crop of cauliflower by planting seeds in August indoors and raising your own transplants.

Put started plants outdoors in good garden soil, about a foot apart. Keep the soil moist. Wrap the stems of the plants, from below the leafy top to just under the soil surface, with strips of paper or aluminum foil to thwart cutworms.

To keep cauliflower on your table for several weeks, be sure to plant different varieties that will mature in different numbers of days. Some take only 55 days, while others can take up to 80.

Go beyond boring white

Romanesco is a funky-looking hybrid that resembles stacked seashells. It is pretty enough to use as a centerpiece and looks good “green” so it needs no blanching. Rambunctious little boys might be willing to try the white curds of “normal” cauliflower if you call them brains. Girlie girls might prefer their cauliflower in deep purple, which turns pale lavender when cooked. There is also a deep yellow-gold form called Cheddar.

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