Is the cauliflower, the most under-appreciated member of the brassica family, making a comeback?
After a number of sightings in the national press recently, we thought we’d cast a spotlight on this often overlooked – and overcooked – traditional British vegetable.
In The Times yesterday, the chef, Yottam Ottolenghi, described the cauliflower as ‘one of the most exciting vegetables in the world’! This might be going slightly over the top, but the article also mentions that Marks & Spencer has reported that sales of cauliflowers are up 68% on last year. So there are clearly some people that are finding uses for this much-maligned brassica.
So what can you do with cauliflower other than smother it with cheese sauce? A quick search on the internet gives a number of tasty-sounding recipes. Yottam Ottolenghi backs up his cauliflower campaign with a number of surprisingly ‘exciting’ recipes. Fried cauliflower with pine nuts, capers and chili sounds delicious, as does a recipe of his featured recently in The Telegraph for a smoky cauliflower frittata. A friend of mine often roasts roasted cauliflower florets with curry spices as an out-of-the-ordinary accompaniment to her Sunday roast. All very mouth-watering. However, I wasn’t so enthusiastic about the random recipe ideas of cottage pie with leek and cauliflower mash or cauliflower crust pizza!
To enjoy a really tasty cauliflower, you need to grow your own. The great thing about growing cauliflowers is that they can be grown year round. The main sowing period is March to May, although you can sow them in January or February under glass for earlier crops. Cauliflowers do best in very fertile soil so digging in well-rotted manure before planting will help the plants’ growth. Vital to healthy and productive cauliflower plants is firm soil around the roots, so be sure to tread the earth down before and after planting/transplanting. Of course, it’s important to water plants well in dry weather – and don’t forget to give them some high nitrogen fertiliser to boost the formation of those nice bright white cauliflower curds.
Thompson & Morgan offers a wide range of cauliflower seeds. They come in a variety of shapes, colours and sizes. It’s also important to mention that they have the reputation of being high in fibre and a good source of vitamin C. They are also thought to contain cancer-fighting bioflavonoids.