Cauliflowers are not the easiest vegetable to grow but they are amongst the relatively few vegetables that can be grown to cut in late autumn and winter. And fresh food from the garden at that time of year is always a treat so this cauliflower trial, recently ended, was especially useful.
Twenty eight varieties were sown, including some with coloured heads, and it was the quality of the heads that was the most important factor in the judges' assessment. Quality is made up of a number of factors including colour, smoothness, uniformity, the depth of the curd and how well the foliage folds over the head as protection against winter weather.
It was a difficult winter, exceptionally cold at times, but although the heads froze sometimes solid the crop was largely undamaged. Cutting on frost-free days was recommended. All the seed was sown inside at 15-20C in mid June and the young plants set out in late July.
Four varieties were recommended to receive the Award of Garden Merit.
'Belot', at its peak in January, and ‘Deakin', at its best in November, both produced a good crop of solid white curds well protected by their foliage. ‘Regata', at its best in November, was vigorous and especially useful for home gardeners as it tended to produce side shoots as well as heads of good quality. The January cropping ‘Triomphant' made large plants with well protected heads that, while smaller than many, were unusually deep and solid.
No varieties with coloured heads received awards but one of the assessment panel, Paul Corfield of vegetable breeders Clause Teziér Seeds, reported that they had developed some good late cropping green-headed Romanesco types but they were not being released. "They damage too easily in transport to appeal to supermarkets," he said, "and with the only interest coming from the retail seed companies for home gardeners, this was unlikely to provide large enough volume of seed sales to make the varieties commercially viable."
Please add a comment below if you'd like to see these released - perhaps they can be persuaded!
Seed of cauliflower 'Belot' is available from The Organic Gardening Catalogue
Young plants of cauliflower 'Belot' are available from Vegetable Plants Direct
Young plants of cauliflower ‘Deakin' are available from Gardening Direct and from Vegetable Plants Direct