← Return to A to Z

Brassica oleracea var botrytis

Sustainable Ewe favourites:

Violet Sicilian, Giant of Naples,

Quick Reference

Optimum Soil Temperature 12-25°
Days to Germination 5-7 days
Days to Harvest 90-120 days from transplant (75 days for miniature varieties)
Direct Sow or Transplant Transplant
Distance Apart 60cm  (30cm – miniature varieties)
Soil pH 6.5-7.0
Annual/Biennial /Perennial  Biennial


In the 1st Century Pliny describes a plant that is very cauliflower-like.  He called it Cyma and said that it was the most pleasant tasting of the cabbage varieties.

Found in the writings of Arab botanists Ibn al-Awwam and Ibn al-Baitar in the 12th and 13th Century.

Introduced in England around 1720 and called Italian Asparagus or Sprout Cauliflower.

The name cauliflower derived from Italian caoli flori (cabbage flower), which in turn comes from the Latin caulis flōs

Whilst it is widely assumed to have originated in the Middle East, the French refer to in as choux de chypre – Cyprus Cabbage.


Seeds can be started in trays and transplanted out before they reach 5cm in height.

Heavy feeder, likes nitrogen rich fertilisers.

Keep watered to avoid plant bolting.

As the ‘head’ or ‘curd’ develops the outer leaves can me folded over it to avoid sun blanching and causing discolouration.

Harvest while the heads are firm and tight.

Storing harvested Cauliflower:  Cauliflower can be dehydrated or blanched and frozen for excellent flavour.  Does not hold it’s flavour well when canned.

Seed Saving:   Insect pollinated.  Isolation distance of 1km.  40 plants recommended for genetic diversity.  As it is a biennial seed is harvested in the second year and plants may be difficult to overwinter.

Seed Life:   Five years

Fun Facts

There are 25 calories in 100 grams of cauliflower

An Excellent source of vitamins C, K, B6, folate, pantothenic acid.  Also high in maganese, potassium, magnesium.  In fact one single floret is 10% of your daily vitamin C requirements.

The head, or curd is actually an immature cluster of flowers.

The leaves are edible and have a flavour similar to collard greens.

Comes in a range of colours:  While all have similar levels of nutrients Orange Cauliflower has a higher level of beta carotene, Purple is higher in anthocyanins, and Green is higher in chlorophyll.

Mark Twain once postulated that “a cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a college education”

In 2014 Peter Glazebrook grew the worlds largest cauliflower.  It weighed 27.5kg and its foliage measured 6 foot in diameter.

If you dislike the smell of cauliflower cooking try adding a few celery seeds or leaves to the pot.


Downy Mildew – pale spots or blotches on leaves. Possible mildew on underside of the leaves.  Space plants to allow for good air circulation.  Weed.

Potassium Deficiency – scorching or burning on leaf margins.  Poor quality hearts.

Magnesium Deficiency – yellowing between veins on older leaves.  Add fertiliser.

Molybdenum Deficiency – leaves thin and strap-like, poor growth.  Add fertiliser.

Boron Deficiency – hollow stems.  Head may become brown or lumpy.  Add fertiliser

Smaller heads than expected – cold weather

Bolting/Running to seed prematurely – cold weather followed by hot weather.  Root exposure

Club Root – plants stunted, deformed roots.  Add lime to soil.  Destroy diseased plants.  Ensure good drainage.  Crop rotation.

Discoloured Head – yellowed head on cauliflower.  Sunburn.  Fold leaves over head to shade.

Head is Soft/Breaking up – Over-mature.  Pick sooner.


White Butterfly/Diamond Backed Moth – holes in vegetation in late spring, summer, autumn.  Protect young plants with insect mesh

Aphids – small insects clustered in developing heart or crown.  Keep plants well watered in dry weather

Slugs and snails – holes in leaves or stems in winter.  Digital removal (pick the bugs off), coffee grounds, ground egg shells said to be a deterrent.

Whitefly – underside of leaves covered with tiny white insects that will fly when disturbed.

Cover your garden with insect netting to avoid having your plants become a meal for caterpillars and bugs.  There are a variety of sprays and solutions (both organic and non-organic) such as Derris Dust or Quash available to combat such pests.

Companion Planting

Beans, Broad Beans, Bush Beans, Climbing Beans, Beets, Borage, Celery, Coriander, Cucumber, Dill, Marigold, Marjoram, Potatoes, Tomatoes

NEVER Rue, Strawberries