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Graham Rice on Trials

Updates on trials and awards from the Royal Horticultural Society by Graham Rice

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Late cauliflowers

Posted by Graham Rice on 22 Mar 2009 at 02:17 PM

Assessing the RHS cauliflower trial. Image: ©RHS Trials Office.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.Cauliflower 'Belot'. Image: ©Clause Teziér.

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.Cauliflower 'Triomphant'. Image: RHS Trials Office..

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

Seed of ‘Regata' is available from DT Brown

Seed of cauliflower 'Triomphant' is available from Dobies of Devon


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on 22 Mar 2009 at 03:39 PM

Diane Whitehead said:

I hope the new Romanesco will be released.  Vegetable gardening is enjoying a resurgence among amateur gardeners.  Those of us living in the north who expected our produce  to be grown in California and the Mediterranean have noticed  holiday homes there where orchards and vegetable fields used to be.  Food security is now a concern for us, and books such as "The 100 mile diet" are the result.

I think it costs a lot for a seed company to register a new variety in Europe, and perhaps they can't cover their expenses based on amateur growers.  We in North America do not have such restrictive regulations, so perhaps Mr. Corfield could sell his Romanesco varieties to a company here, like Stokes, which sells to commercial and home growers.

on 27 Mar 2009 at 05:55 PM

Graham Rice said:

You're right Diane, and I'm sure they're investigating selling their caulies everywhere. Caulies are rather sensitive to climatic variations so trials would probably be needed in different parts of North America to assess their suitability for different regions.

on 05 Apr 2009 at 09:03 AM