Harvesting and Storing Cauliflower
Cauliflower, a member of the cabbage family, is rich in fiber, vitamins B and C, potassium and carbohydrates. It costs more than cabbage or broccoli because of the extra labor used in the fields to maintain it. The prevalent color of this vegetable has traditionally been white and later green. However, new colorful varieties have emerged through agricultural research such as yellow, purple, golden and various shades of green. Cauliflower is a delicate vegetable. It will easily spoil if not carefully harvested and stored. The following guide will provide you harvesting and storage techniques to help you get the most out of your cauliflower.
Step 1 - Blanching
This may be necessary before you harvest, depending on the variety you cultivate. Some varieties will blanch on their own but others require that you blanch yourself. Blanching ensures that your cauliflower retains its fresh color when you are ready to pick it. It also protects the heads from the sun since cauliflower are very sensitive to heat. When the cauliflower is ready for harvesting, pull up enough of the larger leaves and bend over the head. Tie the leaf tips together with a rubber band or soft string to allow the curd flower heads to blanch. Allow 4 days for blanching or longer in the fall.
Step 2 - Picking
It is best to pick cauliflower when the heads are full. However, avoid waiting until the curd flower head begins to separate. Most varieties will be ready for picking when the heads measure at least 4 inches across in diameter. Use a sharp knife to cut the stalk. Make sure you leave some leaves wrapped around the head to protect it.
Step 3 - Freezing Cauliflower
Cut the cauliflower head into florets. Blanch for a couple of minutes then allow to cool. If you add a bit of lemon juice or white vinegar to the blanched water, it will ensure that the cauliflower retains its white color. You can then pack the vegetables in freezer bags and freeze.
Step 4 - Storing in a Cool Place
If not freezing, you can store the picked cauliflower by hanging it upside down in a cool place. Be sure to spray the heads lightly with mist everyday. They will last about 1 month in this mode.
Tips for a Successful Harvest
- It is best to harvest before the vegetable attains full size. This will prevent too much of the crop having to be picked within a few days.
- Always harvest before the florets begin to open. Beyond this, the cauliflower heads will begin to discolor. They also spoil rapidly.
- The best time to harvest is early morning when cauliflower is most succulent.
- Soak your cauliflower in mild salty water before preparing. This will draw out any cabbage worms that may be hiding in the head.