When and How to Harvest Cauliflower

When and How to Harvest Cauliflower

Heaven is a bite of fresh cauliflower, straight from the garden.

I have always loved this cruciferous veggie best when it’s eaten raw, or blended into a base for soup or vegan pasta sauce.

A close up vertical image of a wicker basket with freshly harvested cauliflower heads with foliage still attached, with a metal bucket in soft focus in the background. To the center and bottom of the frame is green and white text.close relative, broccoli, a head of cauliflower ( var. ) is made up of tons of tiny, unopened flower buds.

Most of us are familiar with white florets, but you can find purple, orange, and green cultivars as well.

These varieties have the same deliciously smooth, nutty taste that the white ones have, and they’re all harvested in the same way.

While most people know they can eat the unopened buds, or curds, they might be surprised to find out that the leaves and stalks are edible, too.

This plant takes up a lot of space in your garden, but every part of it is available to eat.

Pretty beautiful, don’t you think?

But only if you know how and when to harvest the heads, stalks, and leaves.

Read on to discover how!

Here’s what I’ll cover:

When to Harvest Cauliflower

It can take anywhere from 85 to 130 days from the date of germination for your brassicas to be ready for harvest, so make sure you mark that date down in your gardening notebook.

A close up horizontal image of a small, immature cauliflower head developing in the garden, surrounded by dark green foliage, pictured on a soft focus background.blanching cauliflower in our guide.

Signs of Readiness

The last thing you want is for your plants to bolt. Unlike broccoli, which still tastes alright after it blooms, cauliflower flowers are bitter.

So what are the visible signs that it’s ready to harvest?

Head size is one major indicator. Pay attention to the expected mature head size for whatever cultivar you’re growing, and make sure you have a ruler or tape measure handy.

In addition, the curds should be smooth and tight. If your plants have loose or deformed heads, check out our article, 11 Reasons Why Your Cauliflower May Not Form Heads, for help.

A close up horizontal image of a Brassica oleracea var. botrytis with a mature head surrounded by dark green foliage pictured on a soft focus background.Harvesting and Preserving

Harvesting is quick and easy. All you need is a sharp kitchen knife!

Firmly grasp the stalk about two to three inches below the head and cut it off cleanly.

That’s all there is to it!

A close up horizontal image of a woman standing in the garden holding a freshly harvested cauliflower head, pictured on a soft focus background.Recipe Ideas

Cauliflower is an excellent rice substitute for those of us who aim to reduce the amount of carbs we eat.

A close up horizontal image of freshly baked stuffed red peppers set on a dark gray surface.Photo by Katherine and Eddie D’Costa.

One of my low-carb staples is this recipe for creamy riced cauliflower stuffed peppers from our sister site, Foodal. My non-low-carb-eating husband loves it, too!

It’s really easy to “rice” fresh homegrown cauliflower. All you have to do is grate it, like cheese, or whiz it in a food processor until it’s transformed into small crumbles.

I grate mine by hand, and it’s surprisingly easy to do.

A close up horizontal image of a glass baking tray with enchiladas set on a white surface.Photo by Kelli McGrane.

A favorite for my cheat days is these roasted cauliflower enchiladas with poblano cream sauce, also from Foodal.

Utterly delicious and worth every sweet, sweet carb.

And of course, sneak it into your kids’ smoothies, like I do, for a dose of nutritious yet inoffensive-tasting vegetables. Or make it into a low-carb pizza crust using this recipe from Foodal.

A close up horizontal image of a pizza set on wax paper sliced into quarters, topped with cheese and sundried tomatoes.Photo by Kelli McGrane.

Honestly, the opportunities to use your homegrown crop are practically endless. Even though I love broccoli, I think cauliflower might be my favorite of the two brassicas simply because of its versatility.

And don’t forget to toss the leaves and stalks into your next salad! The leaves also taste lovely roasted with olive oil and garlic.

A Caul-inary Delight

It’s a fantastic time to grow this oft-forgotten brassica.

Laura Melchor

Laura Melchor grew up helping her mom in the garden in Montana, and as an adult she’s brought her cold-weather gardening skills with her to her home in Alaska. She’s especially proud of the flowerbeds she and her three-year-old son built with rocks dug up from their little Alaska homestead. As a freelance writer, she contributes to several websites and blogs across the web. Laura also writes novels and holds an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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