Top Crop ~ The Big Cauliflower Ambush


Many may not know this, but cauliflowers are the sneakiest vegetables – not to say the most covert in their growing habits. You may watch over them for months – from plantlet module to big leafy crown; you may peer frequently into their tight green hearts, even peel back a few leaves, and there will not be the smallest signs of a cauli. Then one day – last Monday to be exact -THIS HAPPENS!

I was just leaving the allotment polytunnel after my usual late-day visit, and thought I caught a glimpse of curd in the corner bed. When I pulled back the monster leaves there is was,  the size of a football and utterly perfect. How could I not have noticed it sooner? Did it grow overnight like Jack’s beanstalk?

I don’t usually grow cauliflowers in my polytunnel, but back in the autumn when I bought the modules, I had three weedy ones left over from my outside planting, and thought I’d try them under cover. When I go up to the allotment today there may well be two more like this.

The problem with cauliflowers’ sneaky habits when grown outdoors is that by the time you discover curds big enough to harvest, more often than not they have already been found by slugs and earwigs (also sneaky) and been well nibbled under the cover of leafiness.

Anyway, I guess a lot of you might not find cauliflowers especially appealing. But there are many approaches besides the usual cauliflower cheese. Grated raw and briefly sauteed in oil it makes a good rice substitute. Steamed and pureed cauli is also delicious (spot of cream and chopped herbs added). And the whole head can be sliced into 1” thick steaks, given a good olive oiling/seasoning, and roasted in a hot oven for 35 mins, turning after 20mins. I also tried this the other day with celeriac and it was brilliant served with a mushroom strogonoff sauce. I’m thinking one of the polytunnel caulis might be in for similar treatment this evening.

The next photo is just to give you an ideal of the scale of leaf disguise adopted by this paricular cauli. I had to peel off masses take this portrait, and rather wished I had some livestock to feed them too i.e. rather than the compost bin microbes.



Square Tops #23

40 thoughts on “Top Crop ~ The Big Cauliflower Ambush

  1. Cauliflower is one of our staples now we have cut back on rice and pasta and potatoes. It is also very good at disguising itself once cooked! I like the idea of roasting it, not tried that one. I do recall dipping florets in batter and deep frying them and serving with a nut rice and a sweet and sour sauce back in the day when I was vegetarian. Even my kids liked that one.

    1. Just spotted an Ottolenghi salad – two thirds of the cauli roasted (leaves and florets), then dressed and served with the other third raw grated cauli, plus pomegranate and toasted pistachios. Could lend itself to all sorts of variations. A River Cottage variation whereby you make a sauce of pureed cauli and deep fry the cheese to go with it!

  2. One of my favourite veggies. I like them raw or roasted in thick slices….and there’s not much more comforting than a good cauliflower cheese. Enjoy another glorious day 🙂

    1. Just been looking in my Ottolenghi ‘Simple’ recipe book. He does a whole roasted one – leaves and all, and serves it broken up with green tahini dipping sauce, for a group of chums to dive into. (After the lockdown of course).

    1. Well they are tricky items. And I did start off with modules from a really good organic grower. I’ve also learned that they like to be really stamped firmly into the ground when planted out, otherwise they don’t make a flower.

  3. This looks like the size of the ones they sell in our favourite market in Portugal. Quite extraordinary how big they get. Another sneaky veg are courgettes . . one day not quite big enough, the next day there’s a 3ft marrow!

  4. what a prize winner! I love Caulis and have been using it as a soup base with potato (plus onion, spices & garlic etc but the addition of turmeric gives a wonderful colouring
    p.s. I’d never heard of the curd reference before but looking at that lovely white centre it makes perfect sense

  5. Cauliflower is so so good for you! I discovered them late as I don’t think broccoli’s cousin gets much positive attention. Had no idea they were so sneaky too! Like them all the more for it 😛

  6. I grew up eating cauliflower that was battered, deep fried, and then generously sprinkled with Parmesan or Romano cheese. It’s still one of my favourites, although I can’t make it nearly as well as my mother.
    I’ve never considered cutting it into ‘steaks’ and roasting it, but now I have something new to try.

    I can’t help but be impressed that you are already getting produce from your garden. We’re still in the brown stage of spring and will be for a while yet.

    1. We’re lucky in the UK in that the brassica family overwinter pretty well – planted out in autumn and then cropping late winter or early spring. We’ve already had lots of sprouting broccoli – the earliest of such crops, but over by April. I love the sound of battered and deep fried cauli with parmesan. Very sumptuous.

    1. Hello, Sangeetha. Aloo gobi – yes, one of our favourite dishes. My only problem with growing cauliflowers is I’ve not managed to organise myself to produce a succession, so once they’re eaten, they’re gone. Oh dear! Thank you very much for visiting and following.

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