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Brassicaceae (Cruciferae)
Annuals, Vegetables

Related to broccoli and cabbage; all three are members of the genus Brassica and are thought to have originated in the Mediterranean region. All share similar cultural requirements, but cauliflower is more difficult to grow. Easiest in cool, humid regions; where summers are hot, grow it to harvest well before or well after midsummer, and select heat-tolerant varieties.

Home gardeners usually plant one of the several ‘Snowball’ varieties or choose hybrids such as ‘Early White Hybrid’ and ‘Snow Crown Hybrid’. An unusual variety is ‘Purple Head’, a large plant with a deep purple head that turns green when cooked.

Start with small plants. Space them 1 1/2–2 ft. apart in rows and leave 3 ft. between rows. Water and fertilize as for broccoli. Be sure to keep plants actively growing; any check in growth is likely to cause premature setting of undersize heads. When heads first appear, tie up the large leaves around them to keep them white. (Leaves of self-blanching varieties curl over developing heads without assistance.)

To prevent soil-borne pest buildup, plant in different site each year. Row covers will protect plants from some pests such as aphids, cabbage loopers, imported cabbageworms, and root maggots. Alternatively, prevent root maggots by ringing base of plant with a tar-paper collar; or cover with a cone fashioned from window screen. Collars made from paper cups or metal cans (with ends removed) also deter cutworms, which chew seedlings off at the base. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) can be applied to control young larvae of cabbageworms and loopers on plants.

Harvest heads as soon as they reach full size. Most varieties are ready to cut 50 to 100 days after transplanting; overwintering types may take 6 months.

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