Cauliflowers for Showing, NVS Championships and Fourth Vegetable Weekend Seminar
31st Aug 2000
Cauliflower's for exhibition are notorious for maturing either too early or too late for a given show date so you need to adopt a method that will help you save some mature heads and keep them in good condition for a week or so. Under normal conditions, ten days before show time it pays to go through all the cauliflowers and every one that is forming a head the size of a tennis ball or so can be tied up to make sure no light gets at the developing curd. Although some of the newer hybrids have very tight internal leaves that appear to give protection to the curd, once it gets over 3 to 4 inches in diameter the curd will most certainly be exposed. Once the light gets at any part of the curd it will start to yellow and at a casual glance it may not even be noticeable but when the foliage is removed to show the whole curd then it will become very noticeable.
If your cauliflower"s are ready too soon, say a week or so before a show date, then you can do like I used to years ago, lift the whole cauliflower with as much roots attached as possible. Untie the strings holding the foliage together and place some clean white tissue over the curd and then hang the whole plant up in the coldest or coolest area that you have. A cellar would be perfect or a garage in a shady position, this way the cauliflower will serve you reasonable well and you should be able to stage it, certainly at local shows.
For the best method however I gave Ken Galbraith from Manchester a phone call as Ken is the master at keeping cauliflower's in tip top condition. When he gave a talk at my weekend seminar last year on growing and showing cauliflower's, he produced two perfect specimens that he had cut from the rows two weeks previously. These were passed around the audience and everyone agreed that they really looked well, the foliage or protective ribs were still fresh and more importantly, the curd was firm and white.
His method was derived having observed how well some of the supermarkets preserve their vegetables having them in tip top condition for days on end. The vegetables he observed were cucumbers, shrunk wrapped in clear film as are broccoli heads and heads of the iceberg type lettuces. As soon as Ken notices that a cauliflower is in peak condition, any time up to a fortnight before a show, he will cut it from the row leaving about 3½ to 4 inches of stalk on each one. The reason for leaving a little extra length of stalk is so that he can trim the last half an inch or so from the stem just before staging them. This is to make sure that the stem looks fresh but also to satisfy most schedule requirements which specify that the cauliflower must be displayed with a three inch stem.
The foliage is then trimmed back and after thorough examination of the head for any pests such as tiny slugs etc. clean white tissue paper is placed over the curd to cover it completely and then the whole head is wrapped, stalk and all, in cling film. Ken buys a commercial roll for this purpose which is not too expensive and the cauliflower is then placed in a refrigerator, ideally at a temperature of between 35 and 38°F. Ken is not too bothered if the temperature differs a few degrees either way but it must not drop too low as ice crystals will form on the curd and could be detrimental to the eventual quality. You obviously can not get many cauliflower's of the size that Ken stages in a domestic type fridge, regardless of how considerate the wife might be! so a very cold area might be the answer.
Again a cool shed, or garage might do the trick or better still a cold cellar, but I have just thought of another useful aid as well, my wifes' large cool box. We have a fairly large one of these that we rarely use, I just hope she wont go looking for it one day only to find two cauliflower's in it! Use the proprietary plastic frozen inserts in it and these can be changed daily. Another method is to look out for large polystyrene boxes with a lid on, I have seen these used to transport wasps to commercial greenhouses and they would be prefect for this job.
The quality of the curds that Ken produced that weekend last November have always stuck in my mind, superb quality curds after fourteen days, presumably they would have been even better if kept for only 7 or 10 days. Ken and I however do stress that this type of storage is only second best to lifting a really superb specimen fresh from the soil on the day of the show, There's no substitute for the real thing and in Kens' own words, 'cauliflower's should be awarded a maximum of 25 points, not just 20, the extra 5 points being awarded for having them ready on the day'
If you do try the above system, please let me know how you got on, how and where did you store or keep them as well as how good they were after a certain period and whether or not you were able to show them.
National Vegetable Society Championships
This weekend I shall be travelling up to Dundee where the National Vegetable Society Championships are being held from the 1st to the 2nd of September, I look forward to meeting as many of you as I can.
Fourth Vegetable Weekend Seminar
My fourth vegetable weekend seminar is being held once again this November at Plas Tan y Bwlch located within the beautiful Snowdonia National Park, there are seven speakers all of whom are masters of their subject. If you really want to know how to grow large onions, I have been able to persuade Mel Ednie to travel all the way down from Fife in Scotland to tell us how he grew the astonishing World record onion. The onion was grown five years ago and weighed in at a remarkable 15lbs 15½ ounces, and no one since then has been anywhere near to beating it. If you are interested in attending this weekend course which is all inclusive for £154.00. Write to me for full details at Llanor, Old School Lane, Llanfairpwll, Anglesey LL61 5RZ, don't delay, this weekend is sure to be a sell out as I can only accommodate a maximum of 80 people.