Darsham Nurseries Cafe, potager, kitchen garden, vegetables from seed, harvesting vegetables,
The Daily Dibber

Kitchen gardener for the Darsham Nurseries Cafe. Seedaholic. Grower and lover of food and flowers.

Purple cauliflower blues

Seven months, bated breath, and not even a single floret. The concept was a bed filled with rare, perfectly formed bright purple cauliflowers. I had visions of funky jars of pickles and a happy chef. Instead these barren brassicas are now part of the bonfire heap.

I sowed ‘Violetta’ a Sicilian variety in March and planted the seedlings out in May. They grew into very large and seemingly healthy plants. The wait started. The wait continued. The summer began. We laughed in the potager and came up with the saying ‘don’t mention the ‘C’ word ‘, but inside I was seething. My inner leaf examinations became almost gynaecological in nature.

Amazingly Google didn’t help but it became apparent that there is a secret world of unfulfilled cauliflower growers out there, leaving clumps of hair as they fail to get a successful harvest. People literally try for years. By autumn the plants are three foot tall, no florets but plenty of whitefly. Where did I go wrong? It turns out that cauliflowers are really tricky to grow in an uncontrolled climate
Cauliflowers ideal temperature is between 57 and 65 degrees. If they don’t have enough nutrients they simply stop growing. Similar to one of Goldilocks’ mates they don’t like a hard frost or overheating. The watering must be consistent. The cauliflower head then starts to form somewhere between 75 and 85 days, but only if all of these conditions are met. Talk about a diva of a vegetable.

I have ‘Romanesco’ growing at home, this variety is much easier. I simply planted it and protected it with netting. Whilst in my opinion it’s the most handsome of all the cauliflowers, there’s one problem – IT’S NOT PURPLE. I think I may have inadvertently become a member of the obsessive cauliflower world, because now it’s personal. Next year I will try again, but this time in my own garden. That way it will be a private battle. On the plus side we now have a bed ready for the autumn sowing of our broad beans, but does that soften the blow? …Not even a little.

The barren bed.

The barren bed.

limegarden@sky.com • 9th November 2015

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