Cauliflower is trickier to grow in some climates than its cousin, broccoli, but the effort is well worth it. Plants grow best in cool (below 70 degrees F) weather. In most locations it’s best to plant it 90 days before the first fall frost so heads will mature during cool weather. Traditional white-headed cauliflowers required gardeners to tie leaves over the developing head to ensure mild flavor and development of snow-white curds. Some newer varieties have outer leaves that naturally cover the head, eliminating the need for blanching. Varieties that develop colored heads of orange, purple, or chartreuse also need no blanching.
For types that need blanching, cover the developing head when it is 2 inches in diameter. Harvest the head about 10 days later when it reaches 6-8 inches in diameter. Harvest heads of self-blanching and colored types when they reach full size and before curds begin to separate.
Cauliflower can be roasted, boiled, fried, steamed, or eaten raw. Steaming or microwaving better preserves anticancer compounds than boiling. When cooking, the outer leaves and thick stalks are removed, leaving only the florets. The leaves are also edible, but are most often discarded. The florets should be broken into similar-sized pieces so they are cooked evenly. After eight minutes of steaming, or five minutes of boiling, the florets should be soft, but not mushy (depending on size). Stirring while cooking can break the florets into smaller, uneven pieces.